Oh man, what a week it’s been so far and it’s only Thursday. I promise that I’m not going radio silent. I just went back to Ottawa for Canada’s 150, and then came back to Toronto to celebrate my birthday with P, which meant that I basically unplugged for the past 5 days (besides posting to Instagram) and it felt so nice! This post was totally not something that I meant to write about so soon after my birthday, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for the past while and I really wanted to finally get it all off of my chest.
To make it plain and simple, I’m falling out of love with Instagram. I remember a point in my life about 3 years ago, when I was incessantly obsessed with it. I was the type of person who would wake up and scroll through my feed, and not be able to stop until I caught up with the content that I had seen from the day before. The same would occur at night before I fell asleep as well. Instagram was an addiction, and it definitely hindered some of my relationships.
I was often chastised by P that I spent more time on Instagram than with him – even when we were sitting side-by-side together. It was at that point when I realized that my obsession with Instagram was getting in the way of my real life. Yet I continued to gravitate towards it.
It’s true, you do get a certain sense of gratification from seeing everyone interacting, engaging, commenting, and liking your photos. But the effort to decouple that happiness with your personal self-worth is a difficult task that not many people achieve.
Being an early adopter, I saw the success of my account as it grew, which only reinforced my craziness to stay as up to date as possible with all of the content that was flooding the social platform. I can’t say that Instagram didn’t help me to get my blog out there, to grow my name, and to create some long-lasting friendships. I definitely wouldn’t have the friend circle that I have today if it wasn’t for Instagram. When my social circle in Toronto grew, I attributed Instagram as the Tinder for creatives. It allowed me to meet people that I shared mutual interests with that I would never otherwise had be able to come across in my day-to-day life. Instagram removed a long-standing limiting factor of age when it comes to friendships. We often find ourselves crossing paths with those who are at similar places in life as ourselves, which was generally determined by age, but Instagram completed negated that and brought together people purely due to interests.
To which I am so thankful and grateful for. But the world of Instagram has since significantly changed from the way that it was 3 years ago. Back then, it was a way for creatives to flex their skills and to have fun doing what they loved – taking beautiful photos. Now it’s turned into a monster of a popularity contest with new “influencers” on the app everyday vying for the attention of brands and trying to become “Insta-famous”.
I never went into Instagram thinking that it would become a cash-cow for me down the road, taking pictures and posting them was something that I genuinely loved to do. And when brand partnerships and sponsorships came about, it was only a natural continuation of what I was already doing. I didn’t go into it with the mindset of only doing it to get free product or for a pay-day. When others started catching on and realizing what a lucrative industry it was, that’s when things started becoming twisted. And with the algorithm switch, that’s when things only just got worse.
We hear it all the time “algorithm”, but what does it really mean? To a creator, it can mean their livelihood. Before, Instagram was designed to be instantaneous and to show you what exactly people were posting right then and there. Simple enough, and it made sense – hence the appropriately named app. But after its acquisition by Facebook, and the adoption of Facebook’s algorithm that pushes the content of people that you engage with the most to the top of your feed, you start to lose touch with other accounts that you don’t immediately engage with as much.
And that’s when all of the competition started. Everyone became hungry for the likes since the algorithm reduced the level of engagements that your followers have with your content. Unless you were dead front and centre (which most people aren’t), your chances for exposure are severely limited, and it has become somewhat of a downward spiral. If someone doesn’t see your content, they can’t interact with it. The low levels of interaction then pushes you down the chain of photos as other people’s posts climb above yours. And this continues until you fade into oblivion.
In the beginning, your following was what determined your value in the eyes of brands and marketers. But as the world of influencer marketing grew, and people became more sophisticated, buying followers became a thing, thus diluting the sense of being paid for your following. Then along came the value of engagement. Which in a sense just means how many likes and comments you receive per photo. That too was recognized as currency for rates, and bots were developed to enact on behalf of peoples’ accounts to go out and auto-like/comment on other peoples’ photos just to ramp up the engagement of their own posts. It’s crazy, but it’s what is currently happening in the world of Instagrammers.
Next up came comment pods. It wasn’t enough to have your photos liked/commented on via the new algorithm. Your content had to be engaged with in a timely manner to perpetuate its fullest exposure potential. So Instagrammers made these behind-the-scenes groups via DM to share each and every posts with each other in order to generate “authentic” and immediate engagement. It works, definitely, but the behaviour is largely frowned upon on the brand side since it’s purely inauthentic engagement. This topic on its own warrants a separate post for another day. Peep Tee’s post on unethical Instagram behaviour that I fully agree is wrong to do, but people just can’t seem to help themselves and continue to succumb to it.
And when people started dubbing their twisted behaviour as “strategy”, that’s when I knew that Instagram wasn’t what it used to be anymore. Instead of enjoying Instagram as a platform for creators to share their photos, creating friendships, and highlight the talent, it has instead become a money making machine for many. Both creators and brands.
Photography credits: Allure of Simplicity
I don’t feel like I’m in love with the same Instagram as I once was anymore. I don’t want to be part of a popularity contest. I don’t want to be valued for just how many followers, likes, and comments I get per photo. I want to be known for my talent and skill. To which I say, Instagram, we’re drifting. But we’ll still exist in each others’ lives. There’s no way that I will ever stop posting – that I know will never happen. But for those of you who have been following me for a long time probably have noticed that I’ve been less engaged. And you know what? It happens, but I’ll never be fully gone. I’m going to focus on creating more engaging content for my blog – the one place that I can truly call mine. And I hope that you guys will continue to follow along with me on my journey. Thank you for being there every step of the way, I can’t wait to see what this journey brings me next!