I open up the Preview app on my phone and let out a sigh. I am staring at my 9-square photo grid, attempting to rearrange my queue of future Instagram posts for the millionth time–to little success. I can’t figure out why, but something doesn’t look right. Maybe it’s the position of my new outfit post. I try switching it with a couple other photos, but it still looks off. I sigh again. It feels like I’m trying to work out an unsolvable mathematical equation.
After several minutes of swapping and contemplating, I give up, deeply unsatisfied with the results.
“That’s it,” I think myself, tossing my phone to the side. “I’m done with Instagram.”
But even as the thought crosses my mind, I know it isn’t true.
Like brushing my teeth or filling my car up with gas, my Instagram struggles are part of my daily routine. By this point, I’m pretty certain that every active Instagram user on the planet knows exactly what I’m talking about and goes through the same thing. Feed curation is practically a mandate nowadays. If you want your account to stand out, you can’t just take good photos; you have to take good photos that blend together in one harmonious, color-coordinated grid.
From photo booth filters (remember how cool we all thought that thermal camera one was…lol) to meticulous editing softwares, Instagram content has evolved a lot over the years. I know I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it honestly blows my mind to think about how different Instagram is now than it was in 2012. The cheesy filters? The blurry uploads? The lack of worry about whether or not the picture you want to post will match the rest of your feed?
So much has changed since the early days of Instagram. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all become better photographers and content curators (not to mention spared our future selves the embarrassment of looking back and seeing 2012-style content online in 2018). But at the same time, I think these changes have instilled in us the idea that whatever decisions we make in terms of the content we post will never be good enough. Because the Instagram standard for “good” hasn’t just gotten higher–it’s gotten to a point where it’s simply unattainable.
Not only have I noticed this when I’ve (inevitably) compared my own feed to someone else’s; I’ve noticed it when I’ve compared my current content to that which I put up in the recent past. When I look back at photos I posted a month or two ago, I often catch myself thinking they are exponentially better than the photos I posted over the past one or two days. It’s a self-defeating thought pattern. And I can’t help but roll my eyes at the fact that the photos I deem not good enough become the photos I wish I was still taking as time goes by.
You see, what I’ve come to discover about the Instagram standard nowadays is that it compels us to want whatever we don’t have and then causes that want to dissipate the moment we get it. If I decide I like a certain style of photos and attempt to replicate myself, I will immediately feel like I should be doing something totally different. Ultimately, whatever I’m doing isn’t good enough.
The algorithm doesn’t do these insecurities any favors either. As I watch my engagement slide up and down on a constant basis, I can’t help but translate the number of likes and comments into a reflection of my content. Why did this post get half as many likes as that one? Am I getting less views this week because my feed has gotten boring?
Instagram is an endless battle, and there are many moments (particularly for me as a blogger) that I catch myself wondering if it is more hassle than it’s worth. Despite the annoyance Instagram may cause me, I don’t think I can see myself ever dropping off the platform altogether. I like taking photos and seeing what other people are up to. And at the end of the day, it’s just social media.
How do you feel about Instagram?