Instagram Versus Reality
Instagram, it’s our favorite and least favorite space. It’s divided into two separate and distinct parties. The casual user who likes to post whatever photo of their dog or friends and family, at whatever time they wish, with no filters and perhaps not even in focus. The second party, to which I am a part of, strives to grow their business or professional life using Instagram and they’ve spent countless hours studying their audience, crafting the perfect shot, and posting it at the analytics-based time. It’s kind of a full-time job. Tracking posts, seeing how they do, adjusting, and watching other’s half-ass the job you take so seriously.
Through this divide becomes a greater issue. Authenticity. Authenticity on Instagram is…. hard to find. The first users, we can call the casual user- wants to see authentic content, and does not consider what it takes to produce and successfully launch said content. The casual user used to be impressed by beautiful photography, and exotic locations. But now, there are too many people doing those things well… It has turned into a dime a dozen situation. So the divide becomes greater.
Content creators are forced to go to extreme lengths to get curated shots that will impress.
And everyone is tired. Casual users are tired of the inauthentic shilling, and content creators are tired of having to up the ante.
So in response, Instagram scrambles to try to give the casual users (ie the watchers of ads and purchasers) what they want. They create algorithm changes that please the casual users and keeps them on the app longer. Making content creators life hell. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook it leads us to the “pay to play” model being an eminent end result- so no surprise there.
In response, content creators are trying harder to be more authentic, in a nominal way- to become the casual user’s preference.
It’s conformity at its worst. I’m not saying the people who participate in these or promote authenticity are bad- they are not. They are wonderful creators that are just trying to connect and serve their audience. And if they do it right, which some do- it is wildly successful.
The problem with this model is it becomes- well that works for her- so let’s all jump on that bandwagon. Creating the same issue as before. Conformity and inauthenticity.
Instagram is a highlight reel, but so is life. When someone is interviewing you for a job do you tell them your worst qualities or show up in pj’s with no makeup on? Probably not.
Instagram has connected us and inspired our pursuits in very few ways other platforms have been able to.
The artist who couldn’t get their work noticed, now has thousands of people waiting for their newest creation. The musician struggling for words now has endless sources of inspiration. The person who just feels terrible today has inspiring words presented to them, that almost feel as they were written for her.
The next proclamation people make to me when I explain this argument is usually “But! I’m so tired of the photoshopped, stretched, perfected images”.
My answer is two-fold. First- We have had photoshopped images in magazines and billboards for- at least- my entire life (and probably yours too). So why does it bother you so much? If anything Instagram is a place where you can find non-retouched accounts. Accounts that speak against that specific thing. Which means you are probably following accounts that don’t align with your morals.
To my casual users- you control who you follow. If you find an account frustrating or filled with overly processed photos- unfollow. It’s that easy. And if you don’t want to unfollow them, maybe consider why you don’t want to do something so easy? “Hate-following” anyone is not a healthy or productive practice. Why waste your happiness getting angry over someone else’s life? No matter how beautiful anyone’s life looks on Instagram- just remember- it is their best side, and they have problems just like we all do. They may just be more adept at embracing happiness and not engaging in things that will lead them to be unhappy (ie hate following).
And to my content creators. Consider what you are putting out there. It’s not about jumping on every bandwagon. It’s not about having a perfect life or every insta-worthy photo on your account. That’s an un-winnable race. Because there will always be someone who can travel more, spend more, or take more risks than you can. So- instead- be you.
I know Instagram is a business to a lot of us. I’m not saying abandon tactics or analytics that help your content get seen. I understand the goal is to find “your people” (a term I loathe but it feels appropriate here). However, I encourage you to share yourself; the good and bad, and not just on any “authentic” bandwagon.
Imagine it like a first date. All those people out there waiting for you- hoping to just love you. You meet your date and tell them this wonderful (made up) story and background. Eventually, if the relationship continues (which you want it to)- they will find out that what you’re saying isn’t adding up. Then, they will unfollow you/break up with you… Or worse, they will tell everyone what a fraud you are. Sure, you can go chase other new people with your fake story- but how far is that really going to get you? Spoiler alert- not far. And it’s exhausting.
Instagram will again be a creative, fun space and the divide between the content creators and the casual users will grow closer.
And isn’t that what this app is about? Connection.
For more information and thoughts like these, check out my newsletter