Of all the social media platforms, Instagram has long been my favourite. I love documenting those little snippets from our daily lives and capturing our family as it grows. I love the positive vibe it has, the supportive community that I’ve found there, and the connections and friendships I’ve forged with other Instagrammers. But recently I’ve fallen out of love with it all and I’m not entirely sure why.
Yet another algorithm change…
There’s no doubt that Instagram has changed the algorithm yet again – I’m not seeing my favourites in my feed and I’m having to remember to head over to their accounts to see their recent posts. Even those that I have notifications set up for I’m missing, as the notification pops up but then disappears. I check into Instagram very frequently throughout the day, and my feed isn’t updating with that many new photos either, so Instagram is definitely limiting what I’m seeing.
The fakeness of comment pods and ‘Instant’ threads
It feels like the only way to get your posts seen by people is to be in comment pods and ‘instant’ threads, usually run in a facebook group where everyone posts the link to their photo in a thread and everyone reciprocates. These can be a great way to boost your likes, but if you post your photo as close to the opening of the thread as possible, the ‘instant’ interaction from people ensure Instagram thinks your post is popular and shows it to more people in their feed. But these practices have attracted criticism from many people who see the interaction from them as being fake. There’s no denying that these methods have a touch of fakeness about them – it’s a reciprocal arrangement after all: ‘I’ll like yours if you like mine’. Personally I don’t find much to object about in these. I’m part of a few comment pods, and I don’t find those a chore at all – the accounts that are part of it are all accounts I like and follow and would be happy to interact with anyway. But finding the time to join the Instant threads is far more of a chore and I find it really difficult, especially at the moment when I’m battling with a tiny baby throughout the day and night. As a result, my engagement has dropped, and when I look at other accounts with fewer followers but far more likes, it’s hard not to wonder what I’m doing wrong.
The shady practice of follow / unfollow
The biggest change for me lately though is the follow / unfollow trend. This is a well established tactic in building your instagram following – you follow a huge chunk of accounts, then a few days / weeks later simply go through and unfollow them all, whether they followed you back or not, in the hope that they won’t notice and will keep following. Until recently this seemed to be mainly from US accounts, and was fairly easy to spot. When you get followed by an Instagrammer with 50K followers but who’s only following 500, it’s pretty clear that they’ll be unfollowing a few days later. I’m not deluded enough to think that my Instagram feed is that good!
But lately the follow / unfollow has become rife, not just from US accounts, but UK ones too. From accounts that aren’t obvious follow/unfollowers looking at numbers; from accounts that insist publicly that they don’t play the follow/unfollow game. I’m also noticing it more and more from bloggers who are just starting out. It’s clear that people see it as a great way to build their numbers, which I’m sure is true, but it feels a pretty shady and shallow way of growing your account to me. I have no shame in unfollowing people right back once I see they’ve unfollowed me – I don’t expect every account I follow to follow me in return, but to have followed purely to gain my follow in return is a real turn off and it takes a pretty spectacular account for me to keep following after that happens.
I know Instagram isn’t just a numbers game, and that’s certainly not where my love of it came from. But this time last year I was gaining around 100 followers a week, now I’m lucky if I hit that in a month. And last month, for the first time, I actually ended the month with fewer followers than I’d started it with. When you see that someone you follow and interact with has unfollowed you it really stings. Because Instagram is such a personal thing, a sharing of your life, it feels like a rejection of you personally. It feels like if you don’t ‘play the game’ now, it’s so difficult to gain new followers, and when it feels like everyone else is playing it, it takes away the feeling that it’s the happy and positive place I loved In a month that has been the most exciting in a long time for me, with the arrival of our new baby, it feels particularly hurtful to have lost so many followers. And I feel like I’ve been fairly restrained on the baby spam front! Ok, I’m tired and definitely more than a bit emotional, but it stings.
Looking back over my posts from June I was sad to realise that I’ve hardly posted any photos of Ben. Perhaps partly because after posting the first couple I lost so many followers. I’ve realised that I’ve hesitated to post the ones I have as I feel they’re not ‘instagram worthy’ – that they look more like quick snaps than professional photos – and in the back of my mind I’m worried that I’ll lose followers on the back of that. But seriously, how sad is that? That I’m hesitant to post photos of my gorgeous baby on my own account, just for the sake of keeping a few followers. No wonder I’ve stopped enjoying Instagram if I’ve become so concerned about posting for other people, rather than myself!
I’m sure that I’ll rediscover the love in a few weeks’ time but for now I’m letting it take a bit of a back seat to just enjoying my new little family. And I’m going to make sure that I’m capturing all those little moments – time flies and I want to make sure I don’t miss all of those tiny changes.
Have you noticed a change in Instagram lately? I know I can’t be the only one out there feeling like this – feel free to rant away below!