Social media has many different forms, each of which allow people to express themselves in a variety of ways. Social media is a very controversial topic regarding how people are portrayed to the public and whether or not it is genuine. Growing up in a technology driven world, people surrounding me have this concept of fame through social media. Anyone can post a picture to Instagram and share it with the world, but there are people who gather millions of likes and comments within seconds. These Instafamous people have the ability to market big name brands and share products and merchandise to the world. This is my story about how Instagram has shaped my life and what it has made me become.
How It All Started
During my sophomore year of high school, I decided to get an Instagram account, which has forever changed both the way others perceive me and the way I see myself. My sister was the one who got me into Instagram. Once she tagged me in a picture, I instantly gained followers. However, the majority of my followers came soon thereafter when my two best friends (who are quite famous and I would prefer to keep them anonymous) posted me in a picture. They told their thousands of followers about my new Instagram account and the followers just kept coming. In being associated with celebrity friends, my followers reached into the thousands within the next few weeks.
This idea of fame through association is apparent here, because without my sister and friends posting about my Instagram account, nobody would know who I am. I would just be another account floating through this electronic world. As the years went by my followers grew, and now I have over 60 thousand followers on Instagram. People want to stay updated on my life and what I do everyday. At the beginning of my Instagram, people would follow me because I have celebrity friends and they would want to follow friends of friends. As the time goes on, my number of followers fluctuates, some come for the celebrity association, but at the end of the day I know there are many people truly interested in my life. How do I know this? Well, I do not know for sure but I like to think that over the past years I grew connections with my followers.
At first, Instagram was simply for social reasons. All my friends were getting this app and I wanted to stay connected with others and post pictures for pure enjoyment. I really liked everything it had to offer. As time went by and my followers grew, keeping up with Instagram became much more involved and worrisome. My mentality changed and I started to concern myself with how others viewed me.
Behind the scenes of social media, everyone is trying to get that picture that will become “Instafamous”. Many people edit, adjust, and filter their photos in order to get more “likes” and followers. Prior to Instagram, I had no thought as to how others viewed me. Now, I can stare at a two very similar pictures for a solid 20 minutes before I decide which one I like better. I want to get the perfect picture that gets the most “likes”.
In the hopes of receiving more followers comes the fact that you must maintain them. You have to post regularly and you have to post pictures that people are interested in and want to see. Sometimes the photos that gets all the “likes” are not my favorite, rather the ones I know my followers will like. For example, the images below are pictures that I have posted on my Instagram account. The picture on the left is a picture of my dogs that I posted for my own enjoyment. It got around 800 “likes”. However, I knew the picture on the right would get more “likes” and more attention from my followers. It got around 3,900 “likes”.
I never thought I would be caught up in the world of Instagram and truly care about others’ judgments of my posts, but I do now.
I started to understand the tricks of the trade. There are certain times of the day to post pictures, certain people to have in those pictures, certain clothing to wear in those pictures, and a certain way to take those pictures to get the most “likes”. These are specificities I would have never thought to bother with, had I not gained 60+ thousand followers in less than a year.
Meme Source: http://comediva.com/12-social-media-memes/
Along with this popularity that Instagram can offer, it also facilitates an increasingly trendy way to market products. I realized the reality of this when I started to get comments on my pictures of people wanting to send me free products in return for me advertising their product on Instagram. Companies pay people to post pictures with their products, creating free marketing and more customers through social media. These companies tell the marketer (me) to post at specific times of the day to promote popularity. Instagram can be very fake and planned by brands in order to find success in their company. Knowing this information, I still decided to create a new email account for Instagram only, and companies soon got in touch with me.
I receive 3-4 emails a day from brands trying to collaborate with me for my Instagram. In supporting their brand over Instagram, they get more publicity, customers, and wealth. This isn’t just for the companies; many Instafamous people will receive free products, money, validation, and more followers for posting pictures with big brand name products. People are sending me free products to test and sponsor. I post pictures with this merchandise and support all it has to offer. However, there are certain cases where I don’t use the product and still endorse it on my page in order to accept the offer. Having big companies notice and want me to represent their brand was completely unexpected, though still an honor. The pictures below are just a few examples of how I promote various brands on my Instagram account.
The question often comes up if people are organic on Instagram or do they just show their ideal world. I like to think that my Instagram is real and shows my natural self. However, Cami Petyn discusses a concept that people only post pictures onto Instagram that they want the public to see. At 1:38 in her video she really goes into detail that we see what people want us to see. Followers see what people decide to post, and what they decide to post is usually showing the best times of their lives. Petyn’s discussion helped me notice a trend. I don’t post photos when I’m sad, upset, angry, or emotional, I just show my “happy” self in my photos. I have the ability to show the followers what I want them to see, which is me doing fun activities on fun days with fun people. Is it my ideal world or my real world? No one will know unless you are my personal friend or family member because my followers don’t know me personally. They only see the positive aspects of my life because that is what I choose to show them. It is for this reason that people believe social media could all be a lie.
In contrast to those who use Instagram as a way to gain popularity, there are always those who use it purely for their own enjoyment and the acquired fame is not an objective. The “fakeness” and deception of Instagram is not always the case. Some people post pictures that are completely themselves and post organically, regardless of their followers. These people believe Instagram serves as an important medium for expressing whatever the user would like to, and if they get famous, it is because people are interested in their life. One Instafamous couple, Savannah and Jay posted a video on YouTube discussing their views on the topic and showed people that it’s not all one big lie. This video has recently been removed from YouTube and is not found anywhere else. They reiterate the fact that Instagram is a place to express yourself through photography and snapshots of your life. Maybe people agree with Savannah and Jay, but there are others around the globe that believes Instagram remains fake.
Social media has the ability to make you feel lost, confused, and stressed. Essena O’Neill is an Austrian YouTube and Instagram star who had over half a million followers on Instagram. She did not agree with social media and the way it was working. From the video I could see that O’Neill was definitely struggling with the world of social media and I was really able to visualize how devastated she was over this topic. She decided to take a step in changing the process by moving forward into a new world, a world without social media. When everything is based upon “likes”, followers, and views, people often get caught up in impressing others. The judgment causes breakdowns in peoples’ self-confidence.
What I’ve Taken Away
My view of Instagram has changed over time. What once started as a fun and social experience turned into some sort of a “job”. I do not post as many pictures as I used to, and as a direct result, my follower count has steadily been decreasing. If I could take a stand like Essena O’Neill I would, and I do not know what is stopping me. Maybe the persona that the interaction between Instagram and my followers has created leaves me wanting more. Sure, the loss of followers is disappointing, but fortunately my life does not revolve around Instagram. I agree with O’Neill, and I have felt consumed by social media, but I fear if I give up on social media, I will lose connections and not know what is happening around me.
I enjoy following people and staying connected, but I do not like what happens when followers get to your head and make you believe you cannot be yourself because you want to be interesting and keep your followers. It becomes a game against yourself. Instagram has changed my life and has made me look into different aspects of a photo in order to gain more “likes”. Being so caught up in the “likes” and followers, I have grown apart from my organic expression and no longer post for my own satisfaction. Everything is now consumed by what is most visually appealing to my followers so that they notice it. I’m going to take O’Neill’s advice and return to using Instagram how I used to- for my own personal expression.