Instagram as a platform is all about engagement. It focuses heavily on content designed to immediately entice and attract. After, “success” within the platform stems from incoming notifications of likes, comments, and new followers. Increasingly, this engaging app focuses on the technicality—framing, color, click-bait worthy subject matter. What you choose to post (the subject matter), of course, will also determine what gets the coveted likes and what doesn’t. It’s really about tempting the eye: those that come across your pictures have to find them appealing to double-tap without hesitation.
Starting in the years of middle school, we all have those overly filtered or washed out pictures which pose as accomplished photographic content. Yes, some of us have maintained these adolescent accounts from the grey years of middle school and look back, glad that we finally hit “instagram puberty.” There are rules that the naked eye doesn’t begin to follow until it enters high school.
First, grainy images aren’t artistic; they’re poorly shot. It’s all about quality over quantity. During our younger years, we barely cared about what we posted. This now has become increasingly important. The more skin we show, the better the quality, And don’t forget the innuendo behind the captions we write: what does these do for us? Boost our ego? Maybe. It’s almost a compulsion to post something when you haven’t in weeks. I hear the same phrases over and over, “I haven’t posted in a while. I’ll post this one.” or “Oh my god I love this picture of me. What filter should I use?” It’s typical for us to delete the pictures from the past that exposed flaws-now-eradicated or that inconvenient portrait that put too much of our facial acne on display.
Secondly, don’t keep posting the same-ish pictures because it’s redundant and, ultimately, a form of spam when you overdo it. I’ve seen this on multiple accounts but should add that I don’t always agree. The exception is when the content displayed is humorous on multiple occasions. I mean that’s what gets the likes to go through the roof, no?.
Third, it’s also about exposure. And I’m talking… borderline inappropriate exposure. Though odd to report in a school newspaper, we all know that Instagram accounts allow us to see our peers out-of-school-uniform. Like it or not, compare those snapshots you took with more conservative coverage versus the ones where you unbutton your shirt a bit more or stroll around in near-undergarments and bathing suits on your favorite beach; you’ll quickly see the difference in the likes and the clear message that your followers are trying to convey. This is on the point of always striving to be the best, which also means looking the best. We have so many expectations that we think we have to fulfill in order to attract and maintain our audience. The real question we must ask is why we believe this is so important? Vanity? Insecurity? At the end of the day, having everyone’s approval and the double-tapping that happens while scrolling through feeds, makes us feel better about ourselves (and especially when the heart is accompanied by the time to type a comment, like “hey, your complexion looks great!”
In Forbes magazine, Jason Demers states that “We all fall into the trap of thinking more is better.” To an extent, it’s true; there are some benefits to having more likes and followers. People tend to follow accounts that have large followings simply because they want to be a part of the crowd. By this logic, you could gain new, real followers just because your numbers are impressive.
This all contradicts all my middle school years as an Instagrammer. The compulsory rules of avoiding poorly edited photos, irrelevant subject matter, anything that makes our lives seem less-than-extraordinary, and clichés—unless, of course, you’re subverting the cliché in some clever way.
Stand out with high-quality content, not high volumes of content. You can’t predict how the world at large will view one image from the next; that unpredictability is the foundation of viral surges in traffic, after all. What you need to do is strive to post the best, highest quality pictures you can take. I guess being natural means, ironically, going to unnatural lengths to make yourself (or that highly manipulated picture) stand out.