Instagram Follower Drama: Not Here

Hey all!  So last month I broke the 4 digit threshold of Instagram followers and I wanted to write a piece about it, not in a "humble brag" way as much as break open some mythology and silliness when it comes to all things social media.  This winter has been a doozy on me so I had to keep postponing, which has proven to be serendipitous as Instagram has a lot of haters currently with the the whole deleting of fake/inactive/bot accounts thing.  This is actually a way better time and reason to discuss some of the things I wanted to say about social media!

Ok, let's keep it real: if we're blogging, outfit sharing, or sharing any other hobby, craft, or passion of course we want followers.  I mean, right?  Putting yourself out there to no audience would really suck.  My personal story and struggle with this notion is that I also wanted to be to doing the fashion blog thing for a few months prior to me actually beginning this venture (right about this time last year) but kept putting it off because honestly, it felt goofy to put photos of just me out there for (literally) the world to judge.  I don't mean it like the idea itself was goofy but that I had a major case of who-the-hell-do-I-think-I-am-itius! Some of that came from a combo of awkwardness, self doubt, and insecurity, but another part of it was totally borderline overly rational as I was mega aware my only initial audience were going to be friends in real life, ranging from about 20 actual "real friends" (only 5 of whom checked Instagram regularly) and another 200 of lovely but random people from high school, college, and other places that somehow were my IG friends.  It felt incredibly narcissistic to go from posting friend group photos, my mug collection, concerts, and my dogs to a parade of photos of "just me" from head to toe talking about clothes.  Putting yourself out there is scary.  Having safety in numbers will always feel better and I get that...to a certain extent.  Now that I've established I understand that less is not necessary more, let's talk about why only pursuing having a lot of followers can't be your only end goal!

I saw the notification from IG (like everyone did) that they were cleaning out their closet, so to speak, and I shrugged it off.  I'm fairly certain they did something like this 1-2 years ago and I had noticed an abnormal amount of girls follow me lately who's sole IG purpose was looking to "chat" with people online so I was totally fine with them getting deleted!  I'd been out with the flu all week and somewhat under a rock, but when I woke up from an AM fever nap on Friday I began to scroll Buzzfeed on my phone and found this (I think) kind of hilarious article about the follower exodus.    Even being out of it I couldn't believe some of the complaints people were publicly crying about, like these:

Source Buzzfeed via Instagram


Like, OK.  I've established that I agree with the idea that having more followers is more comfortable than not having any followers, but I'm failing to understand that the concept of having fake followers is somehow better.  Trying to decide if I was being a Judge Judy I checked my account and saw that I had dropped from roughly 1070 followers to 994.  My thought process was exactly this: Huh.  Back to the three digits.  But whatever, those other followers were never really mine to begin with I guess.  6 more and I'm back and this time it'll count for realsies and it'll be better!  End of story.  I didn't care because apparently I hadn't earned a 4 digit following yet so I was willing to keep on trucking on until I got it.  What kills me about some of the more aggressive complaints is that people seem to be only concerned about image, competing with others, or that their worth is somehow tied into something that isn't real.  When I post a photo or a new blog post, I want to know that I'm preaching to an interested audience.  If I was only obsessed with image I guess having around an extra 100 followers made me look that much more "legit" but at the end of the day inactive followers weren't doing me any favors.  If someone had say, 10K followers but only actually had 500 read his/her blog and liked their photos then just as many people are reading their material as someone with 500 real followers.  It's like the kids in school who get away with cheating; they may look super smart on paper and get the benefit of the doubt but when a conversation about the topic they were tested on comes up they're not going to fare so hot.  I'm not saying everyone who had a percentages of followers drop off somehow bought or cheated their way to having followers as I didn't do any of that (more on that in a moment), but if followers are that important...why not see it as a challenge to get the number of followers back by working hard?   

This brings me to some of the points I wanted to make about reaching the 1000+ point last month, but I think it's entirely (if not more so) valid in light of this "scandal."  

Never compare yourself to anyone, partially because it's generally a bad idea but partially because you have no idea how successful they really are.  I know a lot of bloggers who get so freakin' many comments on their posts.  But if you check out their Instagram feed they don't have a lot of followers and likes.  There's also countless other websites and apps that a blogger could have a whole different experience and audience with.  Case in point: I get a modestly good to awesome amount of love on Instagram but feel like I can't get arrested on ModCloth's Style Gallery half the time.  Some of my most viewed blog posts have limited to no comments on them too, so I imagine they look "unloved" to the naked eye.

It's doesn't just go for us fashion bloggers who are only a year or two into this adventure too.  There's other blogs and websites that I read around the Internet that have been around for forever, are super professional, high tech, and get tons upon tons of comments.  But then I check out their social media pages and it's a ghost town.  Or, same idea but vice versa.  The internet and all it's moving parts are a strange place.  Only the person behind the vehicle knows what is smoke in mirrors and what isn't.

Some people buy followers/likes...and it's a bad idea.  First off, I'm curious about how much this killing off the bots thing on Instagram impacted those who do buy followers etc.  But regardless, a lot of people buy these things to either look more impressive themselves or have their business look more successful.  I'm going to level with you: when I first starting fashion blogging I considered doing this.  I had around 300 followers-mostly people I knew-and I thought if I rounded up to 500 or so I would look more appealing to follow and not so "amateur".  But then I got a knot in my stomach just thinking about it and realized I would always feel crappy if I knew I wasn't as successful as I "looked."  It just wasn't worth it to me, and now that I have a solid handful or so of legitimate followers I'm mega thankful I never went down that road.

If someone has like, thousands of followers but only 50 likes per photo...it's a red flag.  If someone switches from a modest personal account to a more specified account (fashion, cars, photography, etc) and their first few photos in their new specification are off the charts, that's also a bit of a red flag.  I already said it, but it's worth saying again, comparing yourself to others is a terrible idea for more reasons than I can count-especially if you're comparing yourself to smoke in mirrors.  And, if business decide to work with you because you look so successful but can't deliver the numbers to their sites/products you seemingly have, you're going to look bad and not be remembered fondly.

Some people just get lucky.  I've had a fun but modest incline with followers and friends (more than that in a moment).  I'm sure my (visible) numbers are enviable to some, but truth be told that I've never had any account "go viral."  And the more I make friends with other bloggers, the less I can figure out why some go viral and others don't.  One of my favorite IG gals never seems to acquire a lot of followers, despite being fashionable, attractive, and fun.  Sometimes I find a new account and they're lousy with thousands of followers and likes, but-with all due respect- I find myself scratching my head as to how they got so "instafamous" because while there's nothing wrong with anything they're doing, there's also nothing incredibly interesting with what they're doing either.

There are things you can do to cast a wider net in hopes of catching an audience: posting at certain times of the day, figuring out what hashtags are most helpful to you, taking quality photos etc...but for every time that recipe works for someone it won't work for someone else.  Some people break all the rules and still get a ton of followers.  Your best bet is to believe in what you're doing, be persistent, and just enjoy yourself.

Slow and steady is better...at least I think so!  I went into fashion blogging with no expectations other than the thought that I should put my closet to work-and justify my online shopping addiction ;)  I hoped to become somewhat successful, but I didn't really think too hard about how that would or would not come about.  Within about two months of doing this, I realized numbers didn't matter because it was way cooler that I talked to people from all over the country or even world(!) on a daily basis.  You grow to care about virtual strangers and the proof of that happens when you get excited they won a contest, got engaged, or get concerned that they're in the hospital.  And they'll do the same for you!  It's such a gift because your virtual friends and you basically are in a special club together where you have a safe space and outlet to geek out about your passions. Meaning, while I maintain that I have the best and most fun friend group ever, none of my friends understand my passion for vintage, novelty prints, or Bernie Dexter.  Instagram and blogging have officially made me the bee girl from the Blind Melon video who officially found her kind and became oh so happy!  Not to mention, how cool is it that so many females are supporting so many other females?  It breaks down so many stereotypes and counteracts actual bad behaviors that exist in girl world out there.



If I had gone viral from the get go, I would have probably been too overwhelmed to foster some of these friendships.  I have two girls numbers from IG, one whom I text almost daily (and also met!).  Because I travel semi-often, there's a few pots on the stove about meeting some other girls in the near future as well.  I also have around a dozen girl's emails that are used for guest blogging and other collaboration brainstorms, technical questions, as well as more in depth conversations laced in with the above.  I wouldn't trade that for anything.  It's totally quality over quantity, and even if my quantity continues to grow I'm thankful to have roots with a really awesome group of girls.  I wouldn't trade my personal experience for the world.

Whether you have 50 followers or 50K followers...your likes and follows (and blog hits) should never be your self worth.  I had an incredibly rough year.  Having strangers leave me the kindest messages and comments helped me through some dark days.  It's awesome to have people supporting you and telling you your lovely on a daily basis.  But it's also not what life's about.  I feel incredibly lucky that I don't have a self esteem tied into looks or popularity, so that makes the online persona thing easier to take with a grain of salt. I don't doubt the sincerity of people who comment and follow me and I more than appreciate it, but I know that my roots and well being are based on whether I'm living with respect, dignity, and kindness.  And the people within my inner circle will have a better gage of if I'm living right, so the real life critiques (good and bad) impact me harder than any online one could.  It's too easy to have strangers only see the good within in you, or at least any filtered (pun intended) version of yourself you put out there to the world.  No matter how many followers, likes, or comments I receive in a day, if parts of my life are broken I still need to work on the broken parts.  I fear some people use Internet popularity as a means of sweeping their problems under a rug, or even get addicted to how much fun it can be a la any other kind of addiction (::cough:: those featured on Buzzfeed::cough::).  No matter how real you're being, fragments of your life won't translate online-for better or for worse.  So whether you're just starting out and gaining a following or whether you've done amazing in the Insta world and got 20K followers within the span of a year...there's more to you than what people think of you on the Internet.  And hopefully that's a good thing!!

I hope I didn't offend anyone with this piece.  As I said, I was under a rock the past week and didn't check most of my social media accounts while I was battling the flu so I would have missed any reactions from my online friends.  And if you were upset, know that I cheerlead for you and believe you'll be back to your old numbers in no time.  I also hope you feel better about it.  I just don't think it has to be a bigger deal than it may seem.  But hey, to each their own.  

Bottom line: if you're putting yourself out there because you have a passion or a goal with genuine reasons and inspirations behind your actions, you're legitimate.  Point, blank, period.  Anyone who will disagree with you is a) false and b) doesn't matter.  It takes guts to be vulnerable and publicly pursue what you want to pursue and that's worth more than you may think.  What I love about the Internet is despite it's obvious pitfalls, it can give people the chance to create the life that they want.  Don't cheapen yourself by having falsehoods boosting you up.  Own what you do, work hard at it, and equally importantly: enjoy it.  Followers and career opportunities, and whatever else may come your way as a result is just going to be the cherry on top.

Did you just find this page and am wondering who I am?  Click here for a proper introduction!

Instagram- @ demurelaurenblair
Twitter-      @ LaurenBlair23

Comments

  1. Different social media outlets will render different experiences. I seem to be in the opposite situation-- my style gallery photos do get a lot of "love" most of the time but my IG blog account has about less than 150 followers currently. That also has to do with the fact that I don't post on it very frequently, or don't use it to like/comment reciprocate feedback on others photos very often (my personal IG account is where I am primarily active). I also don't understand how people get upset over losing "fake" followers... I rather have 150 genuine followers than 150k fake ones! But like you said, what matters is having a genuine passion for sharing our passions and style, and we thankfully have the internet to let us do just that!

    xo, Serli
    www.lesoleilchic.blogspot.com

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