Disclaimer: I do not mean for this post to call out the individuals who have been kind enough to offer advice and to have genuine conversations with me about the elusive world that is Instagram, but to sarcastically-yet-honestly outline the bullshit advice that I see people and establishments publish for wide, public consumption every day, whether it be on personal blogs like (or hopefully, unlike) this one, in articles or listicles on more “established” websites, or even in books.
As you would with those aforementioned, earnest sources, feel free to take this advice or not; I just want to make it totally clear that what irks me so much about such articles is not that the advice they offer can only do so much to accomplish what they say it will (to help you grow your Instagram following quickly and greatly, which is increasingly difficult to do as the platform becomes ever-more saturated), but the fact that the nuggets of “wisdom” they contain are predicated on having a high amount of privilege.
Though it’s true that anyone who has access to Instagram at all must have some degree of privilege, the particular lifestyle that it seems to take to gain traction and “success” on Instagram is just so far beyond the realm of possibility for 99% of people (sound familiar?). I resent the fact that those people/establishments who have attained such great success on Instagram then take advantage of their large audiences to promote the idea that their level of Insta-success is attainable, “if you just follow a few simple steps.”
And so, here – in a way that should make the ridiculousness of the aforementioned advice pieces plain – I offer my own snarky version of such advice, from the start of the photo-taking process to the act of posting to the Instagram platform:
1. Just own a “decent” (read: expensive) smartphone, but ideally, a near-professional-grade camera. It should only cost you a multi-year phone contract and/or at least $500-$1000.
2. Go out to eat as much as possible. You can do this at cheap or expensive places, but Instagram obviously loves the aesthetically-pleasing, and restaurants/bars/cafes which have invested in their interior/exterior design are also likely to reflect that investment in what they charge for every drink and dish they offer, of which you should – irritatingly – stand on chairs to take shots.
3. Update your wardrobe with seasonal trends to which people will respond positively and enthusiastically. This involves:
a) having the money to afford the shopping this requires (the more “luxurious” and financially-unattainable the brand, the better);
b) having the significant amount of free time it takes to venture out to aesthetically-pleasing surroundings, and undergo multiple outfit changes and posing sessions, while a friend with an equally-generous amount of free time photographs you.
4. Travel as much and as widely as possible. Most people do not have the time or funds or lack of work/school/family responsibilities to be able to do this, so they seek out photos from those who can! Which could be you! So go do! Then, when posting, use the word “wanderlust” in your caption as much as possible… (To be honest, I don’t know why you should do this, but travel bloggers insist on doing this all the time, so just follow their example blindly)!
5. Exaggerate several features of your photo to unrealistic extents. This involves:
a) Using filters to give your photos a distinct tone that they did not have in reality, but which do in your own head after hours of staring at the same photo and imbuing it with a significance that it didn’t contain for you in the moment of taking the shot.
b) Overexposing your photos and enhancing specific colours to hide imperfections in the shots you’ve taken, giving them a unique “sparkle” and vibrancy that communicates just how “magical” your life is so that people will follow you[r account].
6. Appear in the photos you post as much as possible, whether in selfies or full-body shots. Just make sure to be young and conventionally-attractive. I know this is hard to believe, but trust me when I say that this not only works on Instagram, but is ALWAYS helpful, in every aspect of life.
7. Use relevant hashtags and tag other accounts that may feature your photo, and then just sit back and wait to get featured! The vast majority of feature accounts post photos taken by others with already-large accounts (in order to grow their own following of course), but not to worry, you’ll be the exception! For instance, get featured by accounts like @Instagram itself, and then watch the followers and likes come pouring in! (You. Are. Welcome.)
Time for me to be sincere: Please, just take photos of what you’re interested in, and post when and however often you feel like it. Please don’t follow all the bullshit advice out there, because what it will eventually produce is content that all looks and sounds the same, and it is the people who were simply lucky enough to get successful first who will stay successful, while everyone else is brainwashed to think they can play a game of catch-up. Instagram can really be a positive, supportive place, but like anything in our strange, twisted world, it favours the privileged. Instagram, its popularity and all the recent algorithm changes that have been made on the platform in the last couple of years have made it much more difficult to build a large following, and at this point, I really do believe that success on Instagram is all about luck and good timing.
If you use Instagram regularly – whether or not you have been unlucky enough to read sincere Instagram-advice articles – please let me know what you think about all of this! Have you noticed that many bigger accounts can be described in the ways outlined above? What is the biggest change you’ve noticed since the infamous June 2016 algorithm change (which resulted in the newsfeed no longer presenting posts in chronological order)?