I think a lot of us have had a love hate relationship with Instagram for a long time now. I know that my own relationship with it has been through many different phases. I used to have an Instagram account way before I knew that you could even do Instagram. I posted photos of my coffee, my lunch and my everyday life with the occasional selfie thrown in for good measure. I didn’t open the app everyday, only when I had something I wanted to share, which would be in the moment – ‘instant’ and I absolutely never cared about how many likes a picture got or my follower count.
Then I became a mum and started my blog. I knew I wanted a Instagram account alongside my blog but because no one ‘in real life’ knew about my blog at that point, I created a new account. I still posted what I wanted, when I wanted but it was usually in support of my blog. I’d share a picture when I published a new blog post and talk about my everyday life as a mum. I enjoyed it and really liked that it made me feel like I was part of a community. I no longer felt like I was blogging into an empty void, my readers now had faces and I could get to know them through their own accounts too.
This carried on for around a year until it occurred to me that I would like my account to grow. At this point I had under a thousand followers and as much as I was loving the community – I wanted it to be bigger. I wanted to share my posts with more people, to have more conversations and to make more connections with real people in similar situations to myself. It was also around this time that I started being approached by brands to collaborate on blog posts and I thought it would be good to have a strong following on social media to expand and grow my blog further. I still hadn’t really thought about the fact that anyone was doing Instagram as a job or making any money on it. I knew I had the potential to work with brands through my blog, but that was about as far as I’d got.
I started spending more time on the app and also began posting to a ‘theme’. My theme has never been as ‘themey’ as some, but I tend to stick to a bright and airy feel throughout my posts. Slowly my account began to grow. I was loving Instagram and it was loving me back. Instagram Stories also became popular at this point and once I got over the initial cringe of talking to myself on my phone, I really started to love this feature. I could get to know the people I was following better and my own followers could know me better too. I started making solid friendships through the ‘gram and my blog audience was growing too, which was always my main focus. Instagram was always supposed to be the little sidekick to my blog, almost like it’s wing-man.
Over the next year as my account grew, so did the opportunities to collaborate with brands, which was (and still is!) so exciting! The idea that anyone would think little old me was worthy to work with was amazing. And everyone was so supportive. If you posted about an item you’d been sent you would be congratulated for getting such an opportunity and people would really value what you had to say in your review. I started to earn an income through my blog and social media, but even better than that was that I had found an amazing community of mums and bloggers that I connected with. I felt I’d found ‘my tribe’ and life and motherhood suddenly felt much less lonely. My focus turned to Instagram above this blog, it’s an easier way to connect with people and have a more personal relationship with them. I think that was what I was always searching for with my blog so the appeal of Instagram was strong, and slowly but surely my time and attention was spent on the ‘gram not on here. I love(d) Instagram and for a time it felt like such a positive space.
But recently there’s been a shift. More and more people are cottoning onto the idea of making Instagram a job and so there’s been a rise in people buying fake followers and fabricating inflated engagement rates. Not everyone’s intentions are honest and increasingly there is a feeling of distrust. When you find out one of your favourite Instagram accounts has used dodgy tactics to get to where they are, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. People are getting jealous of the ‘freebies’ and confused about which recommendations to trust, which is fair enough when you have people promoting different and competing brands every other week. Other people are fed up of their ideas being copied and other people just seem to enjoy being critical of ‘instamums’. Where there used to be a connection between an ‘Instagrammer ‘ and their followers, there’s suddenly a separation.
I have friends on Instagram who are now reluctant to post because there are people following them who are just there waiting to pick on every little thing they say or do. I have other friends who are posting much less frequently now because their posts aren’t being shown to even a tiny percentage of their followers. It’s also started to feel a bit ‘deja vu’, I rarely read a caption these days that isn’t similar to one I’ve read before, or even written myself. Trends come and go, at the moment we’re on body positivity which is a fabulous, amazing movement but is also starting to feel like a fad. A bandwagon to jump on and take your clothes off for the likes and the ‘you’re an inspiration’ comments and story shares. (No shade to anyone currently on the bandwagon, it’s a great one to be on so long as your intentions are genuine and honest).
That also leads me onto the people who use other accounts to grow their own. Sending messages, leaving comments and befriending bigger accounts simply in the hope of a returned share and a shout out. It can be very hard to tell who is genuine in this online world. And when one of the nicest things about Instagram is the friends it can bring us, knowing there are people out there who are just out for themselves is quite hard to stomach. I have been upset in the past by accounts who I thought I was close to suddenly not bothering with me anymore as their following surpassed my own.
People are also spending less time on the app because let’s be honest, too much time on the ‘gram can be damaging to our mental health. Too much comparison isn’t good for the soul! It’s great that we’re collectively switching off more and being more present in reality but it also makes me a little sad for the community that was once a thriving hub of support, and is now starting to feel more like an empty void again.
However, for every negative thing I have listed I could list even more positives that have come out of it, for me and for everyone else. The true friends, the inspiration, the confidence boosts, the charity posts that go viral and the money that is raised as a result. The list is endless. I do love Instagram, for all of those things.
I truly want to believe that Instagram hasn’t had it’s day but it is increasingly starting to feel that way. Hopefully this is just an insta-blip – the trolls will get bored, reach and engagement will go back to what it was, and we can continue building and growing our genuine connections and friendships. Instagram is not the be all and end all of life, and I don’t think it is for blogging either. I like to think that if Instagram were to disappear, a new platform would appear and we could all re find each other again. My blog exists within it’s own right and I’m proud of what I have here. It’s mine in a way that Instagram could never be.
Moving forward I’m definitely not going to be jumping ship anytime soon, I still love the gram. I love sharing my thoughts and my photos and talking to other mums. I love sharing my life and reading and watching other people do the same. I’m grateful for the fact that it currently is a source of income for me too. However I’m also not going to give Instagram exclusive rights to all my best bits. A year go if I had something on my mind I would write a blog post and then share a snippet to Insta, and I want to go back to that. I love a long caption as much as the next blogger but I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and I’d rather not have to try and cram my ramblings into the character limit. I also started this blog as my own personal space to document my life and my thoughts, I don’t own anything I put onto Instagram and it could be deleted in a split second if the app were to truly ‘die’. But on here I can easily go back through the archives and relive the moments as and when I choose to.
I follow so many Instagram accounts that I love and that inspire me and I want to continue to find new accounts to enjoy. I truly believe that Instagram is whatever you make it. I always tell people to fill their feed with people they think are wonderful and focus more on the genuine connections not any of the negativity that may or may not be occurring. I’m taking my own advice on that one! But mainly I just want to shift the focus back to this space and keep Instagram as the wingman that I always intended it to be.
I’d love to know your thoughts on all of this!