Falling Out Of Love With Instagram
My goodness but I used to love Instagram. From the very minute, very second I joined, I fell in love. Even though Instagram started off as more of a photo-editing app, I was no stranger to new social media platforms and instantly saw how big it could be. How big it would be. I’ve now been on there for six years, but it’s all going wrong. I’m falling out of love with Instagram. What happened??
I can’t say that I really “got” Instagram until last year. I mean, I had the app, I used it regularly, and I followed a small bunch of people I liked. The people I followed were mainly those I’d gotten to know through Twitter, or real life friends. It was very rare that I’d follow a complete random. I didn’t explore hashtags, or even look at the Explore pages. Venturing out of my own little bubble was a total “What?! Why?!”
In fact, it wasn’t really until I started thinking about cranking up this blog again that I started paying more interest. At the start of 2016 I realised I wanted more. More Likes. More comments. Just more…more! At the time, my pictures averaged probably 2 Likes. Yep. Two. And I’d always been okay with that, because I was posting what I wanted. But, all of a sudden, I wanted More.
HOW I GOT BIGGER NUMBERS
So, I started really trying to stylise the photos I was taking, and researched photo editing apps. I started following more people, and more people started following me. And eventually those Likes crept upwards, especially when I began using hashtags. I was thrilled when pictures were getting 20 Likes or more.
As it ever happens though, with More came Wanting More. I obsessively researched hashtags, and put them into every post. I joined pods, where a few of us would Like and comment on each others’ photos to increase engagement. And I joined in on Instants, which are basically Facebook threads where loads of people post a new photo to Instagram then quickly add their link to the comments and everyone has to Like the photos that get linked.
And yes, it Worked. I gained far more followers, leaping from around 100 to over 1000. My photos regularly gained three digit Likes, and it was great. There is nothing more self-gratifying than posting a picture and watching the notifications flood in. For an ordinary woman, who lives an ordinary life, that’s pretty damn empowering, I can’t lie. I even ended up making some really good friends through Instagram – people who I most likely would not have met or even crossed paths with otherwise.
THAT DRATTED ALGORITHM
In mid-2016, Instagram introduced that dratted algorithm that stopped the photo feed appearing in chronological order. Instead, it seemed that the only way to get on the feed was to have the amount of engagement that you get from being on the feed. Which is crazy. But yes, it happened. Most of the pods, Instants etc sprang up as a result of that change. People were fighting for visibility, and fighting for recognition. Fighting for Likes. That’s what I was a part of.
But that is exhausting. Structuring your day around two Instagram posts scheduled for the best possible time to achieve the most possible views and interaction by way of utilising the best amount and type of hashtags and your own engagement on other photos? Exhausting. Ridiculously so.
I’m a very efficient person by nature. If something works well – great. If it doesn’t, I change it to work well, and carry on. In a situation where something is inefficient and cumbersome and unwieldy and I can’t change it? I give up.
FALLING OUT OF LOVE WITH INSTAGRAM
And that’s pretty much what I’ve done throughout 2017. Given Up. I don’t want to play a ridiculous game in order to get self-gratification. I don’t earn any money from my Instagram, so it’s not like I need to be in that game. Any involvement of mine was purely for the happy warm buzz of seeing those numbers rack up. But the downside was that I pretty much had to dedicate entire chunks of my day to being on Instagram, trying desperately to manipulate its algorithm.
The effect of that? I just stopped wanting to post. At all. I hated feeling like a picture wasn’t “good enough” if it didn’t get as many Likes as the previous. I hated feeling forced into playing that game. And it all began to peter out, to the point where, now? I’d count it as a good week if I posted one photo.
I’ve gone from not caring one jot and multiple posts a day pre-2016, to caring too much and pretty much zero posts at all in 2017. That algorithm was the definite starting point of falling out of love with Instagram, and it’s not gotten any better.
There’s also the mega issue of the follow-unfollow people too – accounts that will follow you to get a follow back, then unfollow again within hours. It’s demoralising as hell when it’s real people doing that to you, especially when it’s real people that you might have actually liked or really wanted to get to know. I wrote about the dangers of Crowdfire and analysing just who unfollows you back here, and that hasn’t changed.
Instagram seems to just be getting worse, as well. A common complaint at the moment is about the age of the photos appearing in any given feed. It seems on average photos are about 20 hours old, which is ridiculous. Nobody can see each other anymore. I’ve just taken an exploratory scroll, and the first photo on my feed was from 8 hours ago, from a fairly big name blogger/vlogger, who I really don’t care that much about but occasionally Like the photos of. The second photo was from 21 hours ago. And the third from 23 hours ago. Whyyyyyy?!
I used to love opening the Instagram app and scrolling, dropping Likes and comments. I used to love sharing photos from my daily life, even if they were mundane. And I used to post loads of selfies, not giving one toss that I didn’t have perfectly-applied makeup. Now, in the midst of falling out of love with Instagram, I just never bother.
These days, I mainly use Instagram for the Stories element, which I genuinely love. I love watching snippets of peoples’ lives, and sharing some of my own. Because, shock horror, they’re essentially real. They’re not (usually) edited to the max and carefully styled. They’ve not (usually) been secretly manipulated by hours of work behind the scenes to push them into a more prominent position with higher engagement. And even when the first one isn’t recent, I can watch through to the most recent. It’s as if Instagram Stories has become how Instagram itself used to be, for me anyway.
Real. Instant. Easy. Addictive. Enjoyable. Delicious.
That’s how Instagram was. I’ve been falling out of love with Instagram. But, I’ve fallen in love with Instagram Stories. So, I guess that’s where I’ll be.
PS – I’ve recently realised that it’s not just me feeling like I’m falling out of love with Instagram! Katy at Hot Pink Wellingtons has written this on the very same topic – seems it’s a widespread issue! Anyone else?