We just can’t let it go can we? Yes, despite all the important and heavy duty stuff going on in the world right now, we’re still banging on about Instagram and it’s flaws. But I hope this post will, at the very least, feel like a proactive, positive and hopeful assessment of the platform and how we can regain our enjoyment of using it. Despite the repetition of theme, hopefully this post may differ in that what I’m saying here might encourage other people to assess how they use it and lead to personal changes in use that may make them less inclined to moan about it moving forward. Less Instagram hating, we can all support that right? Let’s take Instagram by the balls…and have a lovely time again. That sounds weird..but you get what I mean.
See you Never Cord Jacket
Miley X Converse High Tops
I think like all things that are getting you down, it’s working out the whats and the whys. What was it about Instagram, or your activity on the platform, that was/is making you most sad or frustrated? Why’s it having that effect on you, specifically? Is there something about your behaviour on it that you could change that may drastically improve your feelings towards it, swiftly and effectivity?
I think people who have jobs that don’t rely on their Instagram content to bring in money, will find our obsession with our feeds, themes, likes, engagement, follower numbers utterly ridiculous. They won’t understand why we’re so bothered, and why we’re getting so regularly and publicly ranty about it all. I understand why many, even my mates, would think ‘get a life’ when they observe it contributing so heavily to our mood and confidence levels. If I was on the platform purely for fun and to to see what a few of my mates, fave celebrities, and exes were up to/wearing/dating I wouldn’t care less if I grew or got many likes either, so I do understand their confusion with our apparent obsession. How lovely that must be for them – these people who are actually using the platform how it was orginally intended – with spontaneity, no planning, without cohesion and manipulation. But that is not our reality sadly.
Of course people who don’t use it as a vital if not primary part of their work will also tell us to just log off or take a break. While I do support regular tech detoxes for our mental health and IRL relationships, when you have imminent deadlines for sponsored posts, or feel a pressure to maintain some sort of momentum and regularity, that sort of advice feels a bit too simplistic.
It’s really hard not to get bogged down with it all when you know that you miss out on opportunities and money because of something a PR might have noticed about your performance on the platform. I think to ensure we have a handle on things when numbers or engagement goes down (which it does for all of us intermittently, and for no clear reason) we have to ask ourselves if the change big enough to truly effect your ability to secure the work your used to bagging. Are you still maintaining the life you were living before? If so, it’s not the time to panic – you’re okay kid. If you have hundreds of thousands of followers a few hundred dropping off won’t make a difference – although I sympathise with the fear that can set in when you ponder whether the decline is going to continue – anyone who is successful tends to have that fear they’re one day going to lose it all. These drop offs also often make you wonder what you’ve done wrong and why people may not like you anymore….even though the reality is that they were probably bots or fake followers in the first place.
In my case the main thing that was getting me down about the platform was that whatever I seemed to do it just didn’t seem to work. I was really trying, but it felt utterly hopeless in terms of growth. I’d be guided by my analytics, I’d be listening to what other bloggers and social media experts were saying we should be doing to beat this bloody algorithm. I started using my phone instead of my camera to take my pictures, as soon as people started saying that Instagram were pushing phone pictures more than professional shots. I’ve tried it all, even if it went against what I naturally enjoyed doing. Desperate comes to mind.
The problem is that half the ‘rules’ I and many of us are following are myths or pure guesswork. There will always be exceptions to’ rules’ too. One thing might work for one blogger and their audience might tank for another. So while we can and perhaps should ‘play the game’ to an extent, should we start looking at it from a different angle?
So like I just said, we need to do an honest audit on our feelings about the way we use Instagram. Only then can we find a bespoke solution to reigniting our passion for it again.
Relatable Vs Aesthetic
This week I had an unexpected afternoon with sod all to do. I won’t lie, I considered a nap, then pondered whether I should finally tackle the heap of clothes on the floor, then I got distracted by the idea of dedicating my focus to re-watching old episodes of Love Island to get me in the zone for the eagerly anticipated season 4. Finally, I decided to mug that all off for an afternoon on Lightroom instead. I know, I’m wild.
I thought about the feeds I enjoy the most at the moment, and on the whole they all appeared to have a clear vision of their overall desired appearance. Right now I’m loving slightly retro vibes, images that look like film, even if it’s just the edit that’s delivered the grain or light leaks. I love more effortless style of posing – more like the person has been caught in the moment rather than looking they’ve done a much planned or choreographed shoot. I love beautiful use of colour, but at the moment I’m mainly drawn to muted washed out tones, or bright ones where the orange or teal is more prominent. I’d say my faves are Tezza, Lizzy Hadfield, Ropes of Holland, The Salty Blonde, Collyer Twins, Chloe Helen Miles and Wish Wish Wish. There’s so many others I love in different ways who also deliver fab content, but in terms of the vibe I’d like to recreate on mine, these are the people I’d most likely try to emulate right now. I emphasise TRY.
So during that afternoon after watching lots of tutorials on YouTube and fiddling about with lots of the dashboard I had previously left un-tweaked, I created a preset in Lightroom that I like – it has a slightly peachy vibe to it, pale greens, with most colours washed out and a slight grain. I’m going to be using this for the foreseeable future. I’ve also done something I never thought I’d do, and downloaded a feed planner called UNUM, so I can prepare my uploads in advance and create a mosaic that I’m confident will look balanced and aesthetically pleasing. It might be a bit sad to admit that this alone made me noticeably more excited about Instagram again. I was itching to post my next Instagram and build this new theme I’d settled on. I couldn’t wait for people to see it, and hopefully enjoy it’s vibe. So within an afternoon, my attitude to posting had changed drastically, but I was a bit surprised that it came from the angle of the superficial.
I studied fine art and have worked as a stylist, photographer and artist, so of course visuals are hugely important to me. But at times I’ve often felt almost guilty about that. I think when I knew I’d be going down the route of blogging/YouTube I was so consumed with not being a bad role model, for not putting emphasis on the wrong things, and staying true to myself in terms of words and messages, that the visual aspect got diluted. I didn’t want to be fake, or someone that could make someone else feel like who they were, or what they have, wasn’t/isn’t enough. As someone who genuinely enjoys fashion and style, and relishes the challenge of attempting to create editorial or ad worthy content, this has always been a constant conflict. For that reason I made sure my feed was never too perfected or glossy and that never reached what I feel is an unrelateable level (obviously, this is subjective). There’s never been a clear theme, and I’d often post images that wouldn’t necessarily scream ‘brands, hire me’, or have people thinking ‘I wish I had her life’. I felt happy that the combination of my pictures and honest captions were finding a good balance in terms of being myself, but also being a professional blogger – but I was definitely making some visual and aesthetic sacrifices a lot of the time.
While posting iPhone photos is apparently one of the methods to increase your chances of the posts being seen and people liking them, I don’t particularly enjoy posting those pictures, just because I personally put a value on crisp imagery ( even if I choose to add grain later). While phone cameras are pretty amazing these days and apps can elevate them to look pretty professional and slick, they still don’t quite match in terms of depth of field and crispness against the ones I take on my Lumix camera. I’ve realised during my thinking time about this that I will always be a bit dissatisfied with the look of my feed if I don’t stick to my guns on this one. Therefore I think moving forward I am going to try and stick to camera images where possible, unless a phone pic was is just too good not to post.
Utilising all of the platform
As I have already said it’s important to me to keep things real…and well, me. While it’s impossible to do so because every image as the ability to trigger something negative in someone in the world, I don’t want to knowingly contribute to someone feeling bad by constantly posting what might be a idealistic representation of life.
I want people to know who I am and what I’m about. I want to reiterate that whilst I might try and post visual pleasing images on my feed, ones that will increase the probability of brands wanting to work with me, feeling confident I can deliver images they may want to share, I want you guys to know that I have my priorities right in life and that I haven’t lost all perspective. In short, I want you to know that I haven’t lost my head, and that I know that true, deep and long lasting happiness doesn’t come from regular hauls, possessions, meetings celebrities, and having a huge follower number.
So alongside my honest captions I am going to continue to show my ultra true self, flaws and all, regularly on my insta-stories. I’ve found that I’ve really warmed to certain bloggers that I hadn’t felt a connection with just from their feed, purely because of their posts on Insta stories. These short video snippets seem to capture their real every day life more genuinely and its much easier to gauge the sort of person someone is and whether they’re someone you could imagine you’d be mates with in real life via this part of the app. It can really feel like they’re talking to you when it’s done in a natural and authentic way, which is lovely. Somehow moving images increase the chance of me trusting you too, and therefore I’m more likely to take notice of and be influenced by the sponsored posts on their main feeds.
In my in real life I’ve been pushing myself to reach out to people more and socialise a bit more often (despite wanting to stay home and feel safe), and I have been happier and felt more supported as a result. The same could be said for my online behaviour too. Being part of whatsapp or DM blogger groups with fellow content makers who are there for each other to answer any questions about the platform or the industry, to tell you about the latest apps they’re using, or to offer support on those weeks where you finding uploading to social media mentally draining, has made the whole environment feel a whole lot warmer. I just feel less alone, which for me is one of the most consistent aspects of being a Blogger/YouTuber. Replying to comments and engaging with people who’ve made the effort to support my posts has made it feel a more interactive too – one of the things I find most rewarding about online work. Replying to people’s instastories when they’ve got a question, taking part in polls (even if I accidentally press the wrong thing on a daily basis), and sending words of comfort if someone appears to need it, can really enrich the whole Instagram experience.
Will I be able to sustain the fun?
So this is how I think I’ve finally found a way to be the Instagram blogger I want to be, both visually and morally, whilst being business savvy and enjoying the process of curating a feed too. It’s harder than some of you may think to find your own personal winning combo….and time will tell whether I’ll feel like I’ve succeeded when I reaccess my feelings towards the platform and my feed in a few weeks time.
I have to be honest and say that I would truly love my account to be one of those ones that people think is ‘goals’. When I gaze over my collection of images I want to feel that satisfaction I feel when I see something with a well thought out composition or pleasing colour pallette. I want the feed to capture all of my passions and interests, but I’ve also realised that cohesion is important to me too ( as a visual person with an art background).
I have fears that my new editing technique and colour grading may effect how easy it is to post certain images. Already there have been a few occasions where the genuine colour of the product I’m posting about is an integral part of it’s appeal. So it will be interesting to see how I work round that one. Sometimes brands are very specific about the photography style – many stating clear crips and white (which doesn’t fit with my retro grainy look I’m going for). I’m also concerned it might be a turn off for some of my followers who don’t follow me for aesthetic reasons.
Find out what you love and do it more…
So in short, find out what you enjoy about the platform the most. Is it realising the visuals you have in your head and/or seeing a personal brand emerge because of the cohesive nature of your feed? Is it making people laugh or feeling included via your captions? Is it about educating or raising awareness successfully? Is it interacting with people or making new online friends? Is it about composition, colour, or both. Is it about spontaneity or that perfectly manipulated magazine- worthy image. Is it about being the person next door, or the aspirational figure ? And be honest. Nothing is the wrong/right answer here, it’s just about finding out what tickles your pickle in terms of Instagramming. If you know it’s the numbers that truly dictates whether you enjoy the platform or not, that means that producing images or a feed you think will go down well with other users could end up being a main focus for you. This will of course have a knock on effect to whether you will enjoy the process of taking/editing pictures and all the other aspects of running a Instagram, because everything will be ruled by and guided by what works, rather than what you like or enjoy.
Final thought. You know when you start enjoying something it kinda shows to everyone observing, and then other stuff seems to fall in to place as a result. Doing what makes you happy seems to to radiate out, so even though the change you are personally making to your Instagram habit may not tie in neatly to ‘growing your page’ you might find it happens anyway. But if not, at least you’ll be getting some pleasure or satisfaction from the process anyway!
All these images were edited using my new editing – let me know if you like the vibe I’ve chosen in the comments. Photos Taken by Kitty Cowell and Amber Doig Thorne.