Instagram: The app we love to hate, and hate to love.

This was initially meant to be an Instagram caption but the latest update and horrible new layout doesn’t make it easy to read captions anymore. So here we are. And I guess this is also why I want to talk about my relationship with Instagram: it is very much a mixture of love and hate, and I’m still trying to navigate this dynamic.

I’m very conflicted with social media in general, but Instagram scores very high in my level of frustration. And following a poll I recently conducted about this, I think it’s the general consensus. Most people described their experience on the app as a love / hate relationship. Although lately, for many, the hate has taken over.

Video is the new preferred format

First of all, there’s the fact that the app is turning into a video platform. Everyone has been saying this… And don’t get me wrong I absolutely love Tik Tok, YouTube and any other video app out there. But Instagram (a bit like Pinterest) was once my hub of choice for beautiful photography, or feel-good lifestyle pics.

This change has led to photos getting less and less visibility. The reach for still photos is horrendous at the moment. Not great for those of us who still prioritise photographic content and don’t have the time to constantly film our lives for the purpose of mini aesthetically pleasing vlogs.

N.B.: I’m not entirely sure there’s evidence to support the reduced reach for photos, so please don’t quote me on this. But it is a known fact that Instagram has been pushing reel content more and more.

Addicted… but to what exactly?

If like me, you spend hours scrolling everyday and at the end of the day feel ashamed at just how much time you’ve wasted… then you might just be addicted. But addicted to what exactly? Watching how others live their lives? Looking at houses, cars, clothes and other materialistic things you know you can’t afford? Saving content as “inspo” but later realising this is just a way to justify and make sense of your addiction?

Guys, we’ve fallen into a trap. The app is literally designed to keep people addicted, and those of us who struggle to control our Instagram screen time are the perfect guinea-pigs (and victims!).

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with spending a bit of time looking at beautiful images. After all, we can also admire how others live, pick up healthy habits, tips, life hacks, useful information and advice, etc. But you know you have an addiction when all sense of moderation goes out of the window. Spending hours scrolling and absorbing so much content can never be a good thing.

Instagram vs Mental health

Then of course, there’s the way Instagram makes you feel. If you had told me 10 years ago how much Instagram could affect our mood on a day to day basis, I probably wouldn’t have joined. From a creator’s point of view, the platform can be heaven just as much as it can be hell.

And before I elaborate on this, I’d like to happily point out that I am healed from attaching the value of my work to the amount of love and attention it gets. I know better today than to lament at the low amount of likes on my posts. Instead, I choose to focus on my unwavering love for content creation. And I’m genuinely swooning as I type this. I am in love with the creative process. The planning. The shooting. The editing. To me this is the fun part of “posting content”.

And believe me when I say that since changing my focus and mindset, I have felt very indifferent about the way the algorithm works. Heck I even post content at the time in the day where my timeline is least active, i.e. the hours when my posts are likely to underperform. And I feel no way about this. (And yes I’m aware brands could stumble upon this post and see red flags. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes!)

But let’s be honest. I haven’t always felt this blasé. Just like anyone else, I have on many occasions experienced negative feelings while using the app. From feelings of comparison and inadequacy, to just feeling like crap when your posts are not getting the amount of attention you thought they would.

On one hand you want to be appreciative of all the love you do get, the likes, the re-shares… Because getting support from that handful of loyal followers still means a lot to you. But on the other hand you’re very aware that content you’ve put so much effort into will drown into a sea of other posts, videos especially.

On one hand you are told not to focus on stats and figures. And you adhere to that – because the lack of engagement is upsetting, so you decide it’s best not to pay it no mind. But on the other hand you remember this is also a platform for you to connect with brands and fulfil your potential as the content creator you’ve wanted to be for a long time. So numbers do matter to an extent. The key, I guess, is to not let it affect your sense of self-worth.

When the proximity with others starts to get to you…

Then, there’s the accessibility and lack of boundaries. As someone who has always valued community and the beauty of shared experiences on social media, I’m surprised at how much I’ve been struggling with being so “accessible”. I’m having to take regular breaks from Direct Messaging because of how full my inbox constantly is. People showing me love in private is something I’ll never ever take for granted. But it also causes me to feel guilty and rude whenever I don’t have the time to reply.

My DMs range from the lovely and well-meaning “How are you?” messages, to full blown consultancy-type questions e.g. people wanting extensive home decor advice, people telling me about their life issues and asking for advice, and even asking for financial help…

It can take a toll on you when you feel like you’re stretching yourself and trying to be everything to everyone. I love interacting with others, I enjoy the idea of community, but I hate feeling like I’m letting people down by ignoring them or making them wait. And the proximity is starting to feel a little overwhelming.

Not to mention the occasional troll DM, totally unsolicited d*ck pic, scammers, or shady messages from people who just wake up in the morning and choose violence.
I think social media giving people such easy access makes us forget boundaries sometimes.

Curating your feed is harder than it seems

Why is it so difficult to curate your feed and not feel bad about it?

If I’m following someone whose content I can no longer relate to, or I no longer enjoy, why do I find it so hard to unfollow them? Why do I feel like I owe them an explanation? Especially someone I’ve never met before…

I would expect anyone, yes, anyone – including my own friends, to mute or unfollow me if my content was no longer aligned with their values or interests. It may hurt a little at first, but when you remember that people have agency and the right to choose what they see on their feed, I suppose you become a lot more understanding.

Perhaps this is what people have been doing with my page, hence the feeling that I’m stagnant, or only growing when I don’t actually post anything. And it’s fine. No, seriously, it’s fine. We can’t become this emotionally attached to an app that is designed to make us lose sense of our actual realities. Instagram and other similar apps are all about escapism after all. Let’s remember to stay grounded.

Think you’re bored of influencers? Trust me, influencers are bored of each other too!

I have been working with brands on Instagram for the past couple of years, although my brand partnership have become somewhat of a rarity (out of choice – I am very selective). And even to this day, I still feel awkward selling products to my followers, regardless of how relevant they are to my page and my audience. I shouldn’t, because after all this is a very lucrative and legitimate industry. We are essentially advertisers. Our platforms are being utilised as a commodity to reach an audience, just like magazine or TV advertising. Absolutely nothing wrong with it; in fact it’s a blessing to be able to earn a living doing what you love.

But not everyone enjoys the influx of ads posted by influencers and content creators everyday. There’s a collective sense of boredom and exasperation everytime you see an ad on your feed, especially for those of us that follow more influencers than we can count.

I recently tried to change my outlook on this and instead, trained my mind to champion and celebrate this emergence of creatives who are simply trying to monetise their gift. I’m looking at this type of work with a fresh pair of eyes rather than rolling eyes (!) because not only am I one of those people, I’m also not a hater!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I completely get that at times, it may become a little overwhelming and annoying (let’s just tell it how it is)… But then nothing stops me from unfollowing and muting. And by the way, ads may not be the only reason why people get bored of content creators and influencers, which leads me to my next point.

If you want to see more authenticity on your feed, follow less influencers and content creators

We are creators. We tell stories through our posts. We convey messages. A lot of this may involve an element of staging, which in turn can sometimes feel inauthentic. This is what authors and scriptwriters do. They create scenarios and storylines. The difference is that what we put out on social media is a snippet of our real lives, but as it is highly stylised for the feed, it will at times feel like fiction.

The reason I don’t have a problem with this is because we all know that the days of Instagram being an app to post just friends and family only are long gone. Today, most people aspire to some kind of branding and recognition on the app. A person may still post family photos, but they’ll have a whole separate account to show off their home, for example, or their recipes, makeup looks, their pets, their hobbies… We all use Instagram to share our passions and our gifts. Some people just happen to have attracted the attention of brands willing to pay for a slice of the exposure. Hey. Don’t hate the player, hate the game (if you must really hate).

But ultimately… Do you, boo

When it comes to posting, I guess the best thing to do is to not overthink your time on this app, because it will drive you nuts. You took a nice pic and want to post it? Post it. Want to save it for a more special occasion like your birthday? Do that. You want to address a particular topic in your caption? Please do. You want to take a 2-week break? Go for it. Low stats make you feel a bit down? Hide them. Do what you feel is best, and don’t stress about it (she says, after listing every single frustration!)

My point is, there’s no right or wrong when you love what you’re doing. If you enjoy creating content, and that is where your heart truly is, focus on the art. Focus on the creative process. People’s reactions and support will fluctuate. It is not for you to worry about. You just keep doing what you enjoy. Expect nothing from people so that any support that does come will feel like a bonus. This is how I choose to navigate Instagram.

If you’re reading this and you’re not a content creator but a consumer who simply uses the app for a moment of escapade during your busy day, just use the powers you have to make your experience as positive as possible.

To conclude, I still love the platform and will probably never leave. It still sparks joy most days – mainly because I’m part of an amazing community of like-minded women. So yeah. I’m definitely here to stay, but for the love of God, give us our old layout back, Instagram. Please, I’m asking nicely.

2 thoughts on “Instagram: The app we love to hate, and hate to love.

  1. I follow a bunch of inspiring accounts on Instagram just to get my daily fix, but otherwise, I feel like it’s such a time sink for me if I’m not careful. Like you said, I could very well be addicted, and I’m not even sure to what. I enjoyed your unbiased take on it. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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