A few weeks ago, one of my Instagram photos got featured by a much larger account, and, literally overnight, I gained a few hundred new followers.
A couple of days later, it happened again.
Now, I’m not ashamed to admit that I was absolutely elated by this – and the reason I point out I’m not ashamed is because I think you are supposed to be a bit ashamed by that kind of admission, aren’t you? Like, it’s not really the done thing to be all, “Actually, I’d quite like half a million Instagram followers and a little blue tick next to my name, thanks,” is it? No, you’re supposed to be more like, “Oh, I don’t care about THE NUMBERS! I Instagram FOR ME! If you’re in it for the numbers, you’re DOIN IT RONG, ‘cos it won’t make you happy!”
And, of course, it WON’T make you happy: that much is true. Actually, I think it would make me quite stressed, really. I mean, I sometimes look at the comments on those really big accounts – the ones that have hundreds of thousands of followers – and think, “Amber, you should thank your stars that you’ve cleverly avoided becoming popular on Instagram, all these years, because that way madness lies.” And it really, really does.
Even so, though, I’d be lying if I told you I wouldn’t at least like the option of being driven mad by a massive Instagram following, because, yes, I totally would. I can’t be the only one whose looked at the phenomenon that is Mrs Hinch, say, and thought, “I wish I’d thought of naming my cleaning products: WHY DIDN’T I?” Or can I?
Wait: I can sense I’m losing control of this post here. Let’s wrestle it back on track, shall we?
So, as I was saying, one night I went to bed as usual, and, when I woke up, I had a few hundred extra Instagram followers.
And then, a few nights later, the same thing happened again.
“It’s finally happened!” I thought, excitedly filling up my online shopping baskets with all of the things I was going to buy when I hit the 1 million follower mark, and brands all started fighting over who could pay me the most money to work with them. “I’ve finally figured out Instagram! I wonder if I should do an ebook, explaining how I did it?”
Then I checked my account, and I’d lost 100 followers.
Then 200 followers.
And it Just. Kept. Going.
I’m not sure whether the followers I’d gained from being featured on those larger accounts had followed just to unfollow again (I.e. the old, “I’ll follow you in the hope you follow me back, then I’ll unfollow again a few days later,” game) or if they’d just followed expecting fashion photos, only to be disappointed when I posted a bunch of random stuff instead, but, whatever the reason, my follower numbers just kept dropping, and absolutely nothing I did made the slightest bit of difference.
It wasn’t for the lack of trying, either, because, short of buying followers or using bots, I tried absolutely EVERYTHING.
I left thoughtful comments on related accounts.
I interacted as much as possible with other Instagram users.
I replied to all my comments.
I experimented with posting at different times of day, and multiple times per day.
I stuck to my “theme”.
I dropped my theme, and posted photos that were totally out of place on my grid.
I even – and this time I AM actually quite embarrassed to admit this – tried joining a couple of “follow trains” I came across. In my defence, they were all “new mum” accounts, and I genuinely thought it could be a good way to connect with women at a similar stage as me. As it turned out, though, hardly any of them followed me back (Despite it being a RULE, allegedly…), and the ones who did tended to ONLY post graphics about other follow trains, so… yeah. Total waste of time. WHO WOULDA GUESSED?
Absolutely nothing I tried made even the slightest bit of difference.
And it never HAS, either: because, the fact is, until my sudden jump in followers, I’d been stuck on roughly the same number for months. Every day I’d gain a handful of new followers… and lose almost exactly the same number, so there was never any growth, just the discouraging feeling of running on the spot, and getting absolutely nowhere. In the past year, I’ve had a few posts do really well (For me, anyway), and get more than triple the amount of likes I usually get, but even THAT hasn’t made any difference, or stopped me losing followers: so what WILL?
At the time of writing, the rate of follower loss has slowed down considerably, but I’m still waking up every morning with a few less followers than I did the day before – or, at least, I assume I am. The truth is, I no longer even bother to check. This is actually quite a departure for me, because I used to check my follower numbers every day: sometimes more than once. These days, though? These days, I know it’ll just depress me, so I leave well alone, and I think that’s probably healthier.
I’m not posting much any more, either – other than on Stories, which I still love. Oh, I haven’t stopped altogether: I do occasionally get a photo I want to share on Instagram, but I no longer go out of my way to create one, and I can sometimes go days between posts, which would previously have been unheard of for me, because I felt I HAD to upload something every day, or die trying.
(Scott A, if you’re reading: that bit was just me exaggerating for dramatic effect, OK?)
These days, though, I just don’t see the point. Thanks to the current algorithm, the majority of my followers don’t see my posts anyway, and, every time I upload something, it just seems to remind people to unfollow me, so why bother, really? And, I mean, I should probably say here that I’m very aware that all of this sounds a bit, “WELL, I DIDN’T WANT TO COME TO YOUR STUPID PARTY, ANYWAY!” – uttered when you realise you’re the only person who didn’t get an invite. Feel free to picture me as Elsa in Frozen at this point, all, “THE COLD NEVER BOTHERED ME ANYWAAAAYY!”
Can you blame me, though?
Because, the fact is, I’m just really, really tired of trying and failing to figure out Instagram. I’d LOVE to be good at it – I really would. But I think I’ve reached a stage now where I’ve finally accepted that it’s not ever going to be my strong point – and I think I’m OK with that. I KNOW I’m OK with not giving it so much headspace any more: all that time stressing over the fact that I haven’t uploaded something in 10 hours, and OMG, this photo I was going to post isn’t a perfect match for my theme, WOE! I mean, that’s RIDICULOUS, right? And I’ve known that for a long time now – I just haven’t known how to break out of that mindset… until Instagram decided to perfectly illustrate the fact that it really doesn’t matter WHAT I do: my followers still won’t see my posts, and they’ll still keep unfollowing in their masses. So why worry?
So I don’t. Worry, that is. I DO still have my Instagram account, obviously, and I DO still use it, albeit mostly for Instagram Stories, which I still enjoy. But I’ve stopped caring – or even checking – how many likes my posts get, or what my follower numbers are. I’ve stopped taking photos with Instagram in mind (Unless it’s required as part of a brand collaboration, obviously), and I’ve stopped viewing Instagram as something that has the potential to be a large part of my business: it’s only ever going to be a fun distraction for me, and it’s more fun when I look at it like that.
So, I haven’t quit Instagram : but I have quit caring about Instagram.
Er, I don’t suppose this is a good time to ask if anyone wants to follow me over there, then?