Instagram was always my favorite platform; that was, until the algorithm changed, and it became only that. A platform. With the change in algorithm came a change in the way I used the popular social media network, and with it, a change in the enjoyment I got from it in the first place. If you’ve been living under a rock – or you have more sense than to waste away on Instagram like the best of us – Instagram altered the way it displayed images. No longer was it based on when you posted, instead, pushing out posts that it perceived people to like the most. Instagram was never a platform I used to promote myself, to share my photos or to even connect with others – initially it was less about the creative aspect for me and more about the inspiration. A way to people stalk. My own feed was (and still is) mediocre, but my follow list was curated. It was a direct representation of the people I aspired to be like, the places I wanted to go and the lives I wish I had. I didn’t care about followers, and felt no pressure to succumb to a the cohesive feed, brick wall backgrounds or an overhead coffee shot. My Instagram may not have been nice, but it was an accurate representation of my life, one that was not dictated by a grey demeanor, bright light and cacti.
INSTAGRAM INSTANT The new algorithm was designed to promote pictures that people enjoy looking at. Images posted that quickly tally up likes, or comments, will be shown to more people – and thus the need for more likes, and quick ones at that. I began to post my image in a popular ‘instant’ group, liking up to 60 people’s pictures in the space of 20 minutes, all in the hope of reciprocation. Or more so, expecting reciprocation. This is the lesser of Instagram evils. But it’s still cheating, albeit less obviously so. In my particular group, there are influencers with up to 80,000 followers, who gain likes I can only dream of with no help required, and yet, are still using Instants. When I complete an instant, I rarely read the captions. I comment if it fits my aesthetic, but I don’t follow many, and the images are generally not the type that I would normally seek out. But I like regardless, in the hope for some gain in return.
COMMENT PODS I traded for likes, but having 200 likes and a tumbleweed in the comments doesn’t look great now, does it? Gaining engagement is not difficult in the world of bloggers, provided your willing to reciprocate – or you have an amazing feed (I didn’t). These, I liked because I was in control of what I was commenting on in some sense. I tried to join a pod with accounts with similar aesthetics to myself, and found a few – these are groups that I still do join in with to this day. I also joined about 5 others, realized I had absolutely no business plodding about with beauty bloggers and quickly bowed out. Comment pods are great until you lose yourself 40 posts in and find yourself having to plough through them all in one go for the ability to get a few extra comments on your own. It’s easy to complete them mindlessly, that is, until your best friend asks you why you always seem to be talking about how cute other children are on social media (the perks of parent blogger based pods). It is odd to the outside world.
A BIG BAD BOT Yes, I went there. Not limited to Instagram, a ‘bot’ is an automation tool, used to boost instagram following or engagement. They like photos for you based on hashtags or people you follow; comment on your behalf – even follow people. For some reason, this in particular is one of the highest levels of taboo in terms of Instagram. I’d imagine I’ll get some stick for even saying I tried one out. And I just don’t understand. Those that seem to have an opinion on this, are not those who have grown entirely organically – but rather, those who choose to partake in comment pods, instagram follow feeds and who seem to like everything and anything in the hope of reciprocation. And yet, I’m the lowest of the low for automating the exact same process. I have no problem putting my hands up to having tried a bot on Instagram. I used a two day free trial for a ridiculously over-priced service, set it up to like the hashtags ‘childhoodunplugged’ and ‘littlefierceones’. These are the communities I fell in love with before I became over indulged with numbers – I would like 98% of the images in here regardless, and anything was worth a try. Did it work, hell no. Maybe it would have had I set it to follow others, or comment on their images, but even I have to draw the line somewhere.
FOLLOW/UNFOLLOW My follow/unfollow was never an intentional one. I hate those who follow, simply to unfollow two days later when you do not choose to follow their account. It’s fecking irritating and it’s hard enough to see your numbers dwindle, without them doing so after a surge in followers. I did however manage to do this without even being conscious of it. In short, I’d follow a lot of people over a few days. My instagram would grow. I’d be happy about it. A week later, my feed would be full of images I didn’t give a toss about. I’d dislike Instagram again. I’d stop using it. I would lose followers. I’d decide to go back to liking it again, and try and clear out my follow list of the accounts that weren’t in line with my current favorite aesthetic. I would like Instagram. People would unfollow, so the process would then start again. It would happen over a fair amount of time, so I wouldn’t even realize I was doing it. It took me long enough to realize, but following accounts in the hope of growth is just plain stupid, and was one of the main reasons I fell out of love with the platform in the first place.
When it comes to blogging and using Instagram alongside, 80% of us are trying to cheat the system in some way or another. Whether that be as basic as liking posts or following similar accounts simply for reciprocation, or going as far as using pods, or instants, or entering the blogger outcast of a bot. It’s difficult, because we see people who have had massive successes taking shortcuts alongside those who have done it organically, and factoring in time – is it any wonder we are curious. I have no problem admitting to trying to cheat the system. In the past, I felt it was the only way to grow. In the last while, I’ve found my love for Instagram again. I am still participating in comment pods, and the odd Instagram Instant, but I’m following the accounts I actually want to – and in turn I’m engaging more because I am seeing what I want to see.
Instagram is what you make of it, if you want to cheat, growth will happen, but I suppose you’ve got to ask yourself if it’s the type of growth you want. If you want a feed filled with people you don’t care about and images that don’t inspire you, tens of thousands of followers who don’t interact and a lack of love for the platform in the first place, then it’s probably the way to go about it. I tried it, it didn’t work, and I’ve seen ten fold more substantial growth since I stopped trying to fake an influence. I am no Instagram influencer. I am simply a bored mum who is a bit to camera happy and since accepting that, Instagram has became what it once was for me. Fun.