“A fixation with connecting with ‘friends’ online comes with the risk of disconnection with friends waiting for you to be present in the offline world.”– Craig Hodges
I’ll be honest with you all, I’m more granola than I am Instagram model. I’ve never been or thought of myself as sexy, or someone who could sell their face or body as some sort of brand. But when I started Be You. I realized I had to sell myself. I had to create this image of myself and be consistent and devoted to it. I needed to make those watching fall in love with the person I am, or the person I wanted them to see.
Be You. being built on the platform of welcoming real-life struggles made mastering Instagram really tough. Be You. is supposed to be a refuge for the different and unique, a haven of sorts where real life can happen and it be okay. I wanted a safe place for people to read about and engage with other people not oversaturated by what’s plastered on the internet.
Somehow through building my brand and trying to find other likeminded souls to travel this journey with me, I lost sight of the Be You. purpose. Yes, I am an internet-based entity, but what really goes on in Be You. happens in the real world. This means I have to be involved in the real world for the brand to work. However, the real world and success on social media very rarely coincide in the same space. I was constantly on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and you guessed it – Instagram.
You’ve read, or I hope you’ve read, about my journey to become more mindful. Now considering all I’ve just said about the devotion Instagram requires, how well do you think I was doing at living in the present moment? Yeah…… All of my present moments happened on the internet. Liking others photos, leaving thoughtful comments, posting on my InstaStory, and even my movements through the world were marked with “Can you take a picture of me?” So now I’m editing photos and choosing the content. I’m coming up with thoughtful and relevant hashtags and deciding if this place is “cool enough” for a geotag.
And would you believe it? I was popular. The official Be You. Instagram had almost 10,000 followers. Each picture grossed between 400 and 600 likes. The website was booming with people reading my posts and engaging with one another. I was working with brands that fit with my own and I thought I was happy. But living in the moment, moment to moment, non-judgmentally and constantly engaging on social media to make sure you stay relevant don’t fit. They’re two puzzle pieces from two different boxes. I was popular in a world that didn’t exist – or only existed in an invisible, non-engageable, wifi space.
I deleted my Be You. Instagram and I focused on just my personal one. I figured I could slowly and organically re-grow my following through thoughtful engagement and posts. I could be normal, in the real world, and be just as popular. Boy was I wrong. I limited my Instagram time each day to 30 minutes and I lost 70 followers. I stopped posting as many pictures of me in tight outfits, or of me period, and I lost about 160 likes per post. I had restarted and I was being true to myself and my vow to live in the real world, and I was failing at gaining support for Be You.
Come to find out, my failure was inevitable. Instagram orchestrated this type of reception with their new algorithm.
- If you spend less time on Instagram they reward you by letting fewer people that may be interested in your content see it.
- If you change your caption they penalize you with less exposure.
- If you’re a normal person with normal person pictures then you don’t get as much publicity.
- If you’re a business account (which Be You. is because it’s a personal blog) and you’re not the most popular then people won’t see you, unless they follow one of your hashtags. My assumption is this hopes to promote “businesses” to pay for posts to be promoted.
- If you’re on Facebook (which I’m not anymore) then you get privileges from the two programs being owned by one company.
I’m sure there are many more, but those are the ones I found most consistently.
For normal people like me: A graduate student, with basically no expendable income, that doesn’t have time to constantly engage or create the most beautiful content to constantly supply the internet with, and definitely wants to get this doctorate sooner rather than later……it can be really tough! I don’t want to spend money to promote a post. I don’t want to spend, or more accurately, waste valuable time from my life devoted to internet “friends.”
But you do start to feel like maybe something is wrong with you, especially when the purpose of the content is authenticity. The interaction and posts that were working before are no longer working. Your platform, the one you were proud of before, is no longer intriguing to people. This is what caused me to go looking for reasons. What I found was your typical Black Mirror type trickery. Instagram takes your engagement and subsequently decreases your followers, to increase your personal engagement with the app by banking on your desire to gain that engagement back. Confusing, I know.
Well Instagram, even though you’ll definitely win the war with the masses, you’ve lost this battle to Be You. I hope they lose a few more battles along the way because there is nothing like being a part of this beautiful world. Even with all of the negativity and current political turmoil, when you have people that love you and true appreciation for the beauty and ingenuity of this world moments are priceless.
I think I’ll keep my “picture perfect life [versus the one] you lie about in your captions.”