It's not you, Instagram, it's me.
Instagram. I went through a period a few weeks ago when I really wasn't feeling it. I just didn't have any enthusiasm for the app which I don't remember happening to me for a long time (if ever) on that scale.
It was becoming a thing I feel I should be doing rather than want to do.
It would be easy to blame the algorithm as a general statement. But, it wasn't that. I'm not talking about less people seeing my posts or less people liking them. I know not everyone always double-taps but rather they scroll through and just enjoy the pictures. Which is absolutely fine. I get that and have been known to do it myself. People are free to use the app the way that's comfortable for them.
Instagram, as an app, has evolved a lot over the past couple of years. And I was adapting well to this change.
But as we say to our boyfriends/girlfriends when the love is no longer there, 'it's not you, it's me.'
Because it didn't occur to me until recently that I had evolved, too. And, in fact, I'm still evolving. And the way I was using Instagram eighteen months ago, even six months ago, was no longer working for me now. It was making me feel unenthused. Uninspired. Almost...hmm, I don't know...maybe soulless?
Okay, so you may be thinking, especially if you're reading this and you're not a 'grammer: why don't I just stop using it? Well, for a number of reasons. Firstly I have an community there who I love chatting to. Secondly, Instagram has helped me become a better writer and pushed my creativity (and for that I'm extremely grateful). And thirdly, because I knew if I changed the way I was using it the joy would probably come back.
During the period of not feeling it, of not enjoying it, I tried to identify the reasons why it wasn't working for me.
[I feel I should pre-empt this a bit by stressing the words for me. This is my journey and is no comment whatsoever on anyone else's way of working with the app.]
The app was becoming a bit like eating numerous hamburgers and never getting full when all I wanted to do was eat steak. Slowly. With a chilled glass of wine. And some good company. In a beautiful setting. With stories being passed around the table. Knowing there is a beautiful, sumptuous pudding to come.
Not sure what I mean?
Let me explain....
If you want to build an online platform then the advice as to what you're supposed to be doing changes all the time. In recent months, with the suggestion that blogging is dying (it isn't) the advice has been to concentrate on Instagram. The app is growing at a huge rate and there's a real feeling of FOMO (this means 'fear of missing out,' mother, if you're reading this). We need to be on there growing our followers, building engagement, posting regularly, creating innovative and creative images, engaging with others in that first twenty minutes to boost chances of appearing on the Explore tab... (Incidentally this is advice I've given to myself and to others.)
And I currently feel like saying bollocks to all that (sorry, mother and mother-in-law.) (And yes, I swore. Something I've never done on my blog. But I feel so strongly about this.)
I don't want to do all that stuff because I'm told to do it. I don't like what it does to me. Scrolling through quickly double-tapping away with no thought for the text. Constantly picking up my phone to check how many likes my latest picture has gained.
I want to read other people's stories over my morning coffee. If this means I only have time to engage with a handful of people before I have to go and see to the animals then so be it. I'm taking that pressure off.
And I want to share my stories. Natural stories with photos taken in the moment (such as the one of DogFace sniffing the lilacs above taken in a split second yesterday). And I want to engage with others because I genuinely find their stories fascinating or inspiring and not because at the back of my mind I'm thinking this will boost my own reach and engagement.
There's so much emphasis on growth, engagement and followers. It's all about the quantity. And it all feels so false. For me. I want quality that inspires and entertains. For me.
The online advice is that people don't want to read long blog posts anymore. They want to consume their reading, their entertainment, in quick bite-sized pieces on Instagram.
Well, that doesn't work for me.
The internet is not and has never been a one-size-fits-all medium. But in your enthusiasm you forget that and go with the tide. After all, it's so hard to swim against it.
It feels wrong. Somewhere. Somehow. You can't quite put your finger on it. It doesn't feel right for you. But you carry on regardless as everyone else seems to be using this strategy to huge success.
Until one day you sit down to figure out what you want to do with the rest of the year. And you realise you want to write. To share stories.
So why was I spending so much time creating posts for Instagram? I used to spend a lot of time creating these posts. But now I'm going back to sharing my daily stories. Photos taken more 'in the moment' rather than created and curated over a number of hours.
Instagram has changed. Yes. But so have I.