We all know never to go to bed angry. Well … never go to bed hungry either. You’ll not sleep and find yourself over-analysing Instagram until the wee hours of the morning!
Oh boy, did I toss and turn for hours last night. Every time I tried to still my mind, I thought of something else. I can’t tell you how many times I had to turn over and reach for the notes app on my phone! I felt a real stirring in my soul and had no peace until I’d bullet pointed everything that I’m writing here.
It’s now Sunday morning and I feel less stressed about it all, despite not knowing quite how I’m going to articulate what I’m about to say. What I do know is that God gave me a prompt (or two, or three, or four!!) and all I can do is share my voice with you today. So thank you in advance for reading and I’d really value your thoughts on it all, please do get in touch!
Instagram is a huge part of my on-going and future ministry. In fact, it has been a major player on social media for me since I launched My Little Duke (MLD) shortly after Phoebe was born. I had a personal account that I’d enjoyed using since 2011 and while I was off sick during pregnancy I started to realise the power and influence of this little app. I’d scroll and click through endless accounts (new mums, mums-to-be, online shops for babies) and find stories that resonated and products I loved. To be fair, I found myself mostly navigating around American accounts – hence the idea for MLD (selling American products here in NI.)
Fast-forward almost 3 years and I can’t believe the journey I’ve been on with MLD. I’m the daughter of a salesman and worked in retail myself for almost 7 years – so selling products I loved felt quite natural to me - particularly the face-to-face sales at local events! Alongside sales, I also started a little blogging, however, once I was back at work full-time, it was nearly impossible to blog at all (isn’t it surprisingly time consuming?!) I remember those days well … the frustrations of wanting to engage more in the Instagram and Blogging worlds (knowing so little compared to what I know now.) I just didn’t have the time. I absolutely love to write, but not under those time constraints and pressures. In those days, there were much higher priorities and writing a blog was always bottom of the list, even posting semi-regularly on Instagram was a struggle.
How times have changed, eh?! During the last 6 months I’ve posted consistently (at least once a day) and my Instagram content has also changed. In essence it’s about the same things:
Faith, Family and Motherhood
Travel and Lifestyle
Fashion and Beauty
But the look and feel of my account has shifted. It’s more intentional. This is both good and bad. As I’ve learned more about the app (Algorithms, Engagement, Aesthetics and Organic Growth) I’ve found myself having to be more intentional about what I post and how I post it. This is where my tossing and turning last night in bed began…
I want to be transparent.
I need to be.
Otherwise, my voice can’t be trusted and any small influence I have becomes powerless and ineffective.
So here are my Instagram truths.
Sometimes I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed by it all.
As Instagram continues to grow rapidly, there have been many times when I just feel like I can’t keep up. There is huge pressure to continually post engaging, inspiring, beautifully curated content. How sustainable or attainable this is – I’m not quite sure? Maybe it’s just hard in these winter months?
In order to get the kind of light needed for a shot, things have to be timed wisely these days! More truth here – I am not a photographer! I only ever use my phone (iPhone 7) but have so enjoyed pursuing and developing my passion for photography (both capturing and editing) over the last number of years. But what I do understand is that in order to keep posting those consistent and carefully curated squares – I have to keep snapping carefully curated shots. This means planning and preparation. Long gone are the days of snapping and posting spontaneously. It’s a sort of “planned spontaneity” if that can even be a thing?! I’m not saying that all my posts have been carefully planned – they aren’t. But what I am saying is that more and more often, I’m finding myself being more mindful of what I post … because it matters.
I am at the stage now where I have a specific look and feel on my grid. There are some spontaneous snaps that just wouldn’t look right! Another truth - I’m a bit of a perfectionist and take great pride in the aesthetics of my feed. I use the app ‘Snug’ to curate the squares before I post. As someone who (for a long time) tried to be in complete control of her own life, I loved Instagram for that very reason. If I couldn’t control what was happening in my real life, I could certainly control my “virtual’ one. The problem for me at the minute is the scary thought of how we might be curating our real lives, in order that they fit in to those virtual squares of “life.” Sheesh. Could we really be?! There are real dangers here! It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. Do we spend more time, energy and effort carefully curating our “virtual’ existence than we do in our real one?
I’ve also serious concerns about the language associated with Instagram.
How often do we hear, or even say ourselves, things like:
“it’s not insta-worthy”
“doing it for the ‘gram’”
“if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen!”
Often these are said in jest, yet, subconsciously, I fear that our perceptions are changing. We are subtly being fed a bunch of outright lies - lies of false ideals, behaviours and expectations of what is “socially acceptable.” What is completely normal and acceptable has suddenly become boring and unacceptable by insta-standards. I fear for the legacy we are leaving for the next generation. Are we role-modelling a distorted version of reality? We constantly scroll and see what we don’t have. If not careful, we begin to live with a scarcity mind-set, one where we start to convince ourselves that we are living in lack. This is actually quite a natural reaction, when so much of what our eyes consume is what we don’t have and what we wish we could – materially, spiritually and physically. Too often “I too, have fallen into the comparison trap.” And this idea of something not being “worthy” enough for Instagram?! WHAT? Where are we placing our value and worth? Surely not in Instagram?! Please God, let it not become where I place even an ounce of my real value! (This could be a whole other blog post!)
Too often, we know and see too much. It’s visual perfection overload and nearly impossible to swim against the current of these new “norms’. I’m regularly and intentionally having to force my eyes upwards and outwards, looking to see the blessings that I DO have, rather than all that I don’t.
Sometimes I think it’s all just one big game, and we’re all trying to win. And in the race to achieve Instagram “success” we are actually becoming conformed and moulded into some version of ourselves with some version of our lives that isn’t sustainable, isn’t attainable; one that could actually suck us dry of life itself – if we let it. I know we aren’t all in it for fame, for success, for followers and likes. Yet, because so much of the app is tailored in that way, it can be hard to go against that flow. It’s the constant striving for more that causes feelings of failure, disappointment, frustration and ultimately … depletion, if the likes, followers or engagement don’t reach the targets we’re encouraged to set for ourselves. It’s good to set targets, but they have to be realistic – and someone else’s growth on Instagram might not be a realistic growth for you. I’ve had to learn that, accept it and focus on investing in the accounts and people who I really love and value.
Additionally, if I’m being totally honest, (the whole point of this blog I suppose!) there have been many occasions where “I have let Instagram become an obsessive addiction.” Becoming obsessive seems to be ingrained in me somehow. I blame Weight Watchers! For over 10 years now I have obsessively dieted. There have been times where this obsession varied in degrees, and thankfully it’s becoming less of a fixation now than it has ever been. Yet, there is something about Instagram that appeals to this nature. Just like the scales – it’s also a game of numbers. There are so many parallels for me. In the same way I step on the scales every morning, (I’m working on this - I promise!) I also open up the app. In the same way I look for that number on those scales, I look at my follower count. Often, in the same way that number on the scales determined my mood, there have been times when the same could be said of Instagram (especially as the follower count fluctuates so much!)
There’s also the addictiveness and adrenalin boost of achieving success, both on the scales and on Instagram. It’s too tempting to strive to achieve more of that and to obsess over the little things. For me, there’s a very fine line – both in dieting and on Instagram – and I am calling it out for what it is. It is dangerous. When the scales were tipping too far into obsession, I have had to catch myself on and catch a grip! Otherwise, it becomes an endless battle that consumes both my time and energy - a dangerous and divisive distraction. This is something I’ve had to call out recently and really work with the Lord on. It’s a work in progress, and it’s not easy. Instagram’s algorithm is making organic growth harder, making some posts almost invisible and forcing us to be more creative with how and what we post. I’ve found it really disheartening sometimes and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m not offering any solution here, just my own experience and a voice of “me too” or maybe I’m the only one!! What is the answer? To cut and run? To stick the course? I’m as frustrated as you, as overwhelmed as you, as maxed out of ideas as you … I’m just not up for cinemagraphs or photoshop magic!
What’s important – for me anyway – is keeping accountable. Whether you are strong enough to do that yourself or have someone else you can trust to do it for you. Honestly self-evaluate your activity on social media – a lot depends on whether it is hobby or source of income. Now that I’m making a small amount of money through the app, I feel a little more justified in spending more time on it, but I cannot justify my needless scrolling!!
In some ways I feel like we are all just trying to navigate these unknown waters of Instagram. Some days the waters are beautifully blue and crystal clear, other days they can be grey, dark and murky. There are days where I feel like I’m confidently riding the waves and some others where I’m simply treading water – watching and waiting for my turn. There are also days when I genuinely feel like I’m sinking - days when I’m engulfed and overwhelmed by the waters, not able to catch a break.
Despite all I’ve written though, this funny little world has made me braver, (surprisingly) less self-conscious, and has unearthed some hidden creativity! I look at the world differently and appreciate the changing of the seasons. I’m intentionally looking for beauty around me – finding it and capturing it. I’ve blogged before about the connections and friendships formed through these squares, but I know who the true author behind these connections is, and it’s not Instagram. Insta is just the platform, another tool that God can use to weave our stories together for greater good. And I just love stories. Don’t you ever underestimate the power of your story, especially your story of the gospel. We are part of a much bigger story, one than spans right back to the beginning of time. My prayer is that from my story across these squares … you see Jesus. That I point you to Him - to His grace and goodness … not my carefully created existence!
My prayer is that while I continue to invest time in Instagram, while I connect, create and use my voice – that God is glorified and the Holy Spirit has room to move. But most importantly I pray that I don’t conform, but am continually transformed by the Lord (Romans 12 v 2) by the renewing of my mind. The ugly Instagram truth needs exposed more often! The subtle infiltration of certain ideals and expectations of how life should be lived needs called out. I need protection from the vanity and self-indulgence of it all, and from feeding off it like its good nourishment for me. I can think of lots of better kinds of nourishment than Instagram!
So seriously, seriously well done if you’ve made it this far …
And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your love and support on this journey. I value every comment, message, like and follow. I love it when you give me that virtual high-five and “me too.” Nothing is overlooked here. Know that today.
Bless you guys,