The world is totally obsessed with Instagram, and I’m bored of it. Not of the app. The app is bloody marvellous. Photography and being nosy are two of my all time favourite things; they literally invented Instagram for people like me. No, I’m not bored of the app, long may it reign over us. What I’m bored of is the world’s obsession with it. It’s driving me up the fucking wall.
Gone are the days of uploading every grainy photo you took at last night’s party with a ‘hipstamatic filter’ and a dodgy border, that’s like so 2012, we’re over that now. We barely had a moment to enjoy it in it’s infancy stages before it was conquered and exploited, monetised and manipulated into the influencer playground that it is today. For many people, the platform that we fell in love with all those years ago is now a full time job for and as such it must be taken seriously. For those making money on the site, or building a brand using Instagram as a tool, their pages are now well curated art-pieces that require time, effort and well, hard work.
Even for those that just use it recreationally, the time spent thinking about what goes into an Instagram post is longer, I suspect, than most people would readily like to admit to. Despite most my friends being pretty cool and seemingly chilled people, I can’t pretend I haven’t noticed changes in their behaviour when Instagram is brought up. Teenagers readily admitting to deleting posts if they fail to secure more than 100 likes, couples talking quietly about the best hashtags to use on their images so as to accumulate more followers and the awkwardly transparent texts I receive from people who like really need me to send them that photo today so they can show their 400 followers that they looked 100% fuckable at the weekend are not rare occurrences, in fact, they’re all too common.
I’m not exempt from this. I wish I was. I can hear the ‘tragic-o-metre’ in my mind rattlingly loudly between my ears whenever I vocalise any Insta-related concern I might be having, but it doesn’t stop them from coming out. I can pass most of it off as work, I’m lucky like that, being a blogger and all, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like a twat; not least of all because I’m fairly shit at Instagram anyway. Not as shit at it as I was at Angry Birds, but nowhere near as good as I am at Candy Crush, just in case you were wondering. I can’t get away from it though, it’s not just a case of keeping the app closed, because to a certain extent Instagram is my job, or an extension of it at least. Not that I should be complaining, at least I’m not a teenager, for many of them, Instagram is their life. And this is not a patronising pondering of someone who remembered a time before applications even existed, this is concern from a woman who is watching the black hole that is Instagram suck us down a rather dubious path.
On average the 700 million active users of Instagram ‘like’ 4.2 billion photos a day. That’s a fuck-tonne of activity from a population who probably ought to be out earning a living or doing their homework. Knowing this as we do, it’s hardly surprising that people feel a little hard done by when they only secure a handful of likes on a photo that they look amazing in. It’s even more frustrating for people who are trying to make a living out of their Instagram accounts, they feel that this must be a personal attack. It’s the classic: why does nobody care about me?!
For the average user, uploading photos to keep their friends up to date, and if we’re honest, a little bit jealous, this isn’t a massive problem. Of course we want to make sure that we look our best, show our exes that we’re over them, make last night’s party look much more fun than it was all the while giving off an air ‘of I’m pretty fucking cool but the best thing about me is how ridiculously chilled I am’ vibe, the other users are not the problem. The prime objective of the plot behind the post is to ensure that the people we already know see it, although we all dream of Insta-fame and endless likes, most of us will settle for a ‘like’ from a guy who’s just let slip that they were stalking your profile.
But for the 15 million bloggers out there, there is a serious feeling of: it’s not fair!!! right now, the cries are echoing around every channel I look at. We’re hearing lots about the ‘algorithm’ (which I don’t understand) and the fact that apparently Instagram is ‘shadow-banning’ (whatever the hell that is) people’s accounts and causing them to lose followers. The ‘flat-lays’ that have always served these people well in the past are boring people and the ‘content’ that they have spent hours pre-planning and creating in a fool-proof manner are not accumulating anything like the likes that they deserve. My Twitter newsfeed is full of it: people are genuinely upset about this. And it’s sort of fair enough, a girls’ gotta eat. It’s hard enough being a blogger in this day and age, pitching to brands to sponsor our Instagram posts when we’re competing with women who had sex on Love Island and rose to Insta-fame overnight, without a flat-lay insight, without feeling that somehow Instagram is trying to fuck us up too.
The one thing I can’t get away from though, whether in my personal life or my private one, is the conversations. The constant conversations that start and end with ‘Instagram’. Friends of mine who are frantically looking for signal so that they can check to see ‘how their post is doing’ (a direct quote from a friend of mine at a festival last weekend), girls who are unashamedly posing for hundreds of photos in the hope of getting one good enough to be uploaded onto this platform, and then the grown women everywhere who are taking the fact that they are being unfollowed seriously to heart.
It’s got to stop. The reason that Instagram was so fabulous in the beginning was because it was fun, it was a breath of fresh air. There are no political rants or homophobic messages, as we so much of on Twitter and we are spared the passive aggressive ‘now I know who my true friends are’ status’ on Facebook that we have become accustomed to. Instagram is a snapshot into a person’s day, it’s inspiration, it’s laugh out loud, it’s motivating, inspiring, pretty. And then the minute it stops being any of those things you have the greatest gift of all: the power to unfollow the person responsible for making you feel anything less than what you want to feel.
The hardest lesson that any creator can learn is that not everyone is going to like their stuff. For artists that is an easy enough lesson to learn, since they learn it early and know it’s coming. For the rest of the world it perhaps comes as a shock, not least of all because most people don’t even realise that they are creators at all. But whether you realise it or not, you have created something with your Instagram profile and now you need to work out what you want to do with it. You can work at it, using it like a portfolio and see how far it takes you down a career path or you can accept that it’s private, a representation of your life and not the business of everyone else. What you need to stop doing though, is worrying about it. Because it is boring. And Instagram isn’t supposed to be boring. There isn’t supposed to be pressure. It isn’t supposed to be stressful.
I am one flat-lay away from throwing my phone out the window most days. Whilst I tip my hat to any woman who can take such a perfect photo of a lipstick without getting her shadow in the image, there are only so many that I need to see in a day. I don’t unfollow people, that’s not really in my nature, but I can’t blame people for doing it, and nor should you. It’s not a personal attack and it’s not the world’s way of telling you that your blog is shit or that you are ugly and unloved, it is nothing. A number on a screen.
Assuming your Instagram account is not your business and it is purely personal, ask yourself this; what is this hashtag going to achieve? More people will see my photos. Maybe more of them will like them. Maybe more will follow me. BUT THEN WHAT? More followers, more likes?! Who gives a fuck? It doesn’t matter. It’s not real. It’s not FUN. And if it’s not fun anymore then I really don’t understand the point, of anything really. For Godssake. Just try to have some bloody fun.