Falling in love with Instagram: The highs, the lows and the Snapchat
I've been sceptical of Instagram for almost the entire time that I've had a profile. It seemed to me that people were spending more time playing with filters and making up hashtags than taking notice of the life that was happening around them. I feared it was making people too image conscious and holding them back from unapologetically being themselves.
From the point of view of a social media marketer, I completely understood it. People are undeniably obsessed with Instagram. It's an incredibly simple way to reach out to your audience and, in the case of brands, shows potential customers how their product can be a part of their lives.
From the point of view of a human being, I had my concerns.
Recently, however, I've had a change of heart.
I've been using Instagram for years because I've felt like I had to. It's useful for my work as a Social Media Marketer and a Magazine Editor, and, well, all bloggers *should* have an Instagram channel, right?
The trouble is, running the Pippa Says Instagram channel just wasn't all that fun. I'd post a picture, throw in what I believed to be "relevant hashtags" then log off. I saw it as "part of the process" and began to really resent the fact that I was forcing myself to do it.
A few months ago, I made the decision to write a blog post about my feelings towards Instagram - a somewhat controversial confession, shall we say - and planned to shut down my Instagram account straight afterwards.
"It would be a disservice to myself and those who adore Instagram for me to stay on it," I wrote.
Halfway through the post, I wrote that I was conflicted because I loved running the Instagram at work and for the magazine, but hated running my own. This statement ran into a whole list of reasons as to why that was: I was interacting with different communities, I loved taking photographs and I really felt like it gives me the opportunity to embrace my visually creative side.
The statement, which was originally planned as a passing comment in my closing statement of the Pippa Says Instagram profile, turned into a 400 word declaration of love.
When the time came to say my final words, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead, I opened a new tab and typed 'instagram.com/pippasays'.
"Maybe", I thought, "I've got this whole thing all wrong."
Sitting there, Instagram on one tab, Post Editor on another, I reminded myself of what had been running through my mind 400 words previously.
- You're not living in the moment.
- People become blind to how incredible their life is because they're too busy trying to make it look better.
- It can make you feel like you're not good enough.
- There's a growingly negative attitude that if you don't have a "theme" then you may as well not bother. I found that concept impersonal and far too unrealistic.
Some of you reading this will nod your heads and respond that this is why you dislike Instagram. Some of you will respond that "No, Pippa, you really did get it all wrong."
I'm falling more towards the latter, these days.
After a good hour of scrolling through my profile, comparing my hugely contrasting thoughts towards it against all of the other feeds that I manage, I decided to leave the closing statement for another day.
I realised that, actually, I hadn't really given Instagram a real chance. Instagram as a consumer, after all, is far different to that of a brand. (I know that Pippa Says is "technically" a brand, being a blogger, but as discussed recently, it's really just a reflection of my life, and Instagram, in turn, should follow that.)
I gave myself a month. If I didn't like it, I'd cut the chord.
I dedicated myself to posting daily, exploring relevant consumer and blogger hashtags, looking for Instagram profiles that I liked, reaching out to Instagrammers and, most significantly, finding communities that I could be a part of.
Instagram and I went to Bournemouth and Berlin, where I started to discover the sheer depths that this platform can go within the Travel Blogging community alone. As I Instagrammed a hidden street in Hackerscher Markt at the end of my Berlin trip, I realised something important: it has the power to help you see the artistic potential in everything.
I began using Instagram to document each day in my life, but in more and more artistic ways: a passport in my jeans, a Pinterest board sitting on top of stacked books, and sometimes just words that said more than a picture could.
I joined the Instagram Posse Facebook group, run by instarevealed.com, to discover how I could unlock even more layers of the Instagram platform and get more involved in the community.
The more layers that I was uncovering within Instagram, the more than I wanted to know.
Hidden beneath a sea of generic flat lays was a treasure chest of expressive images that gave a real insight into the lives of the Instagrammer themselves. Now, that's my kind of social media platform.
Somehow, I've gone from deciding to delete my account to not being able to stay away from it for more than half a day (max).
Looking back, I never really gave Instagram a chance. I signed up, completely clueless, 4 years ago and didn't really take the time to look into it from a personal perspective because I was so busy focusing on how I could make it work for brands.
But my Instagram rebirth has taught me three things I didn't consider when I was too busy dramatically writing the whole thing off...
- It helps you to connect with people that you would never have connected with before - but, actually, have a lot in common with.
- Comments are filled with positivity - well, the hashtags that I follow are (#BrightonGirl, #LBloggers, #TheGirlGang etc.)
- The whole concept of a "theme" is actually a fantastic self-expressive exercise and, from a photographers point of view, it can really get your mind thinking about your identity when you stand back and look the board as a whole.
Anyone who saw me last week will have been forced to have an Instagram Moments conversation with me. For those of you who haven't heard yet, Instagram Stories is the new feature that allows you to post "real time" images off of your feed - in a very Snapchat manner. I was flabbergasted. Absolutely beside myself with joy.
Up until the day of its release, the one major thing I still felt sceptical about with Instagram is the lack of "real life genuine silliness" and "I actually woke up like this" pictures in the Instagram community worldwide.
Sure, I understood that an Instagram profile is essentially seen as an artistic portrayal to how you envision your life, but it doesn't give much movement for us to see the perfectly imperfect sides of people.
Instagram Moments changes everything.
It's basically like Snapchat Stories. You know that, I know that, and even Kevin Systrom, CEO and founder of Instagram, said in an interview with Tech Crunch that he knows that too. You take your photo or video, you "add it to your story", you wait for it to go away after 24 hours - same as Snapchat.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still a Snapchat fan, but I've made a lot of Insta friends over the last few months from across the globe, and I'd love to know what they're really doing in real life.
It brings the Instagram community closer together as people when you have something to talk about that's not ventured through an extensive filtering process - or, well, not one that's taken a good half an hour to polish, anyway.
A Happy Ending
I'm sharing this story because I wish someone had told me how much more there was to Instagram sooner, in the same way that I'm telling you.
In the blogging community, especially, all Instagram conversations are focused around follower numbers, the ethics of buying followers and how much money could be made from the platform. I get it, blogging is a business and there's so much monetary potential.
But I'm so intrigued by people that I write short stories about the lives of strangers who I only meet in passing and exchange no more words than "Do you want a small or large glass of red?" and "Do you want chocolate on your Soya Capp?". I want to be on social media networks that actually expands my network, rather than seeing my followers as "just another number".
Yes, I did celebrate when I hit 1000 followers last week - which funnily enough, is when I started writing this piece. Not because I'm 999,999 followers away from paying my rent with Instagram - because I have a network of over 1000 people on just one platform alone!
And those 1000 people actually like what I put out there. (Hey, there's nothing wrong with a bit of instant gratification.)
I imagine that this post will draw a lot of comments: some will have been through a similar journey, others may interpret my post as negative towards those who do just focus on Instagram as a business tool. To the latter, I'd like to emphasise that I completely respect what you're doing, as much as I respect the former.
Despite my adoration of Instagram from a personal perspective, I still love using Instagram for business: it's fun, often exhilarating and I get a great insight into our customers and readers.
I just wanted to give my Instagram post a second chance, in the same way that I did with Instagram itself - but this time, the declaration of love is 1,228 words longer and involves silly images that I would never post on Instagram.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, your experiences and, of course, see your Instagram profiles.
And it would be an honour if you could reach out on mine.