Normally I’m very private with my social media settings. I don’t have thousands of friends on Facebook, and because I taught school for a few years, my settings on Instagram were also very private. That being said, I know that social media outlets are a great way of getting web content out to a larger audience. I enjoy photography, so I decided my social media focus for this blog would be Instagram. Plus, I have lots of pretty books that are basically begging to have their picture taken.
Once I made that decision, I googled “How to get more followers on Instagram.” Trust me when I say I never thought those words would appear in my search bar. It turns out there is a fairly simple formula for increasing your followers.
- “Like” a lot of pictures and “follow” a lot of people. One article I read suggested you “like” 1,000 pictures per day.
- Comment on other people’s pictures.
- Post a consistently. These experts suggested 2-3 posts per day.
- Use hashtags so that people can find your pictures.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit my first thought when I read this article was something along the lines of:
But I tried their formula, and it worked. I didn’t “like” thousands of pictures, but I did “like” quite a few. I started adding hashtags to my photos even though they seem clunky and irritating sometimes. I even stuck to a schedule of posting 2-3 times per day. After five days of this, my followers increased from 9 to 138. Now, on Instagram, 138 followers is pocket change, but a jump of that size in only a few days was pretty convincing. I found myself thinking that if I could just keep up this formula for a month I would have plenty of followers. I also noticed that my blog site was getting quite a few more views than normal. So, all things considered, this experiment was a success, right? More Instagram followers, more blog visitors, more fun.
Well, not exactly. In just five days I found myself becoming addicted to Instagram. If a notification popped up on my phone screen, I had to take care of it then. I scrolled through hundreds of pictures, “liking” indiscriminately. In the back of my mind I knew that many of the “likes” I was receiving came from people following the same advice I was following.
The pictures I did look at were beautiful–such lovely books and book paraphernalia arranged in really interesting and creative ways. A lot of people tend to use picturesque donuts in their photos. If I ever get a donut, you can bet it’s gone before I have time to take a picture of it. Their photos are filtered and edited and arranged to seem perfect. Even though nobody has it all together, it sure seems like the people on Instagram do.
Inadvertently, I had started to believe in the myth of Instagram–the idea that more followers, more beautiful pictures, and more “likes” would somehow add value to what I was writing and what I was posting. It’s scary how only five or six days can change your mindset. Last night I actually started to worry about how I would be able to find time to arrange and shoot enough photos to fill this week with content.
So I stopped to think. If I continued at this rate, what would happen? Sure, I might have hundreds or thousands of Instagram followers, but how many of them would be there because they genuinely care about my content? How much of my actions would be motivated by envy rather than by a desire to use my gifts to glorify God? Here’s what I was reminded of last night:
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides for ever.
–1 John 2:15-17
That one hurt a little bit–pride in possessions–you mean like pride in my book collection and my photo taking skills? Ouch.
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
–1 Timothy 6:6-8
I decided to slow down with the “liking” and the “following” and the disingenuous comments on other people’s posts. I love sharing my books in fun and creative ways, so I will continue to use Instagram for that purpose, but at a pace that is reasonable and in ways that are uplifting. I’ve turned off the notifications for my Book Fifty account, that way I can set aside some Instagram time each day, but it won’t consume my waking hours.
I look forward to uploading fun and creative content, and I hope you’ll take some time to consider the myth of Instagram. Do you fall victim to it? How do comparison and contentment fight for control in your own life? From now on I’ll be marking all of my arranged and edited photos with the hashtag #instamyth to remind myself that this photo doesn’t reflect reality, and neither do many of the photos I see online. Feel free to use the hashtag for your own posts as well. There’s more to life than social media. I’m just thankful it only took me five days to find that out and not several months.
To close, here is a completely unedited photo of me eating a donut in my [parked] car. Because honesty really is the best policy.