I’m posting something a little different this week.
You probably didn’t expect to land here, and you may not have even searched for this topic intentionally.
But what I’m talking about here today is Instagram, and why my presence on there might be a bit lacking, comparatively speaking.
And I’m totally fine with that.
Let me just say at the outset that I do try to post a few times a week on Instagram, mostly when I feel like I have something fun or useful to say. But I can’t let it be as all-consuming as I see it becoming for others.
As a bit of an outsider looking in, and as someone who has an almost laughable follower count, there is a strange hamster-wheel effect I see in all of this that I really just can’t bring myself to participate in.
But do you know what else? I just find Instagram utterly useless for promoting the reading of this blog.
And my metrics prove it.
Most readers are not coming here direct from Instagram, as, let’s be honest, Instagram is a visual platform designed for looking at pretty things. Words? Not so much.
You see, bloggers have long been given some generic advice about social media promotion that I’ve come to doubt. And that advice is that if you’re going to be a “successful blogger” that you must KILL IT on Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok, YouTube, Pinterest, and who knows where else. Because otherwise, how will anyone find you?
Perhaps there’s some truth that these tools can help with the general awareness that a blog exists, but they are not the be-all end-all.
I think there’s also another undercurrent here, and that is the flawed assumption that people don’t read blogs anymore or that blogs will eventually become obsolete.
Maybe so. But the statistics, at least for now, show that about 77% of internet users are still reading blogs.
See? We’re not dead yet.
So, are you curious about why I think Instagram doesn’t work so well for a small blogger like me?
Read on for why I vote against doing the “Instagram hustle.”
1. The Ever-changing Algorithm Causes Whiplash
At this point in time, I still don’t know what the algorithm really wants.
High-priced marketing firms or agents will tell you that they “know,” but I suspect that’s a bunch of hooey. If they “knew,” then their content creators/influencers wouldn’t be breathlessly posting content multiple times per day and losing followers by the hundreds.
Does the algorithm want: breathtaking photos, photo carousels, funny videos, short Reels, IGTV, heartfelt personal Stories, long captions, more hashtags, hashtags that aren’t repeated, or fewer hashtags?
See what I mean, here?
No one actually knows.
So, guess what?
Everyone just does it all.
2. You’re Up Against Imaginary Numbers and a “Pay-to-Play” Model
Once anyone finds out that there is money to made, here come the scams.
Since engagement is one of those things that both Instagram and brands can measure, well, why not just go ahead and buy your engagement, if you can afford it?
Enter fake followers and “engagement pods,” where groups of users agree to like and comment on each others’ posts.
I’m sure Instagram has shut down some accounts for this activity, as it’s clearly against their policy, but I can still log on to the platform right now and find evidence of this kind of shady behavior in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t take a genius to spot a bot follower or the extremely generic comments coming out of obvious comment pods.
So, if this is all “against Instagram’s policy,” then Instagram is doing a terrible job of enforcing it. Or, this behavior is so incredibly big and widespread now that it has become impossible to police.
So, imagine the horror when a brand signs an influencer with a large follower count and high engagement metrics only to realize later that this artificial engagement isn’t translating into sales.
And if there is little to no consequence from Instagram, then why would everyone not play the same crooked game?
But that’s not all. Instagram will also try to coax you into boosting your posts, for a fee, in order to get more reach. Feel free to peruse forums like Reddit where users who’ve tried this say it’s mostly just not worth it.
Giveaways are another thing that are highly encouraged to drive traffic, and sure, they may temporarily accomplish that, but once the fun is over, those new users are gone, too. Done the wrong way, giveaways can end up hurting you once the metrics show a big engagement drop after the giveaway is over.
Oh, and just like in Hollywood, there are now “agents” or “agencies” to represent influencers. I won’t even link to any one agency in particular here, as it seems there are new agencies popping up all over the place. But for a fee, yes, you too can be a part of this world.
Pay to Play.
I feel icky just writing about it all, frankly.
3. Bad Content Makes it to the Top; and Others Can’t See Your Content at All
I’ve seen more than a few complaints online from dedicated followers never seeing a certain poster’s content. When the algorithm changed from chronological to, well, whatever the heck is going on today, I guess we all knew that we were being manipulated, but we didn’t know that now we were being manipulated by being shown content that we absolutely did not want.
Shadow-banning is another kind of silliness that I can’t explain. Instagram denies the existence of shadow-banning, only because it’s not a term they actually use at Instagram, but more than a few sources on the interwebs say that “shadow-ban-like” activities are definitely a thing.
There is also major head-scratching over why a lot of terrible Reels make it to the coveted “Explore” page. As to the whole “bad content” mystery and why a lot of this garbage makes it to the top, well, Instagram has some answers for you.
Wait for it…
Instagram stresses that to gain followers and exposure you must continue to produce “good content.”
Thanks, Instagram. That’s just…wow…
Thanks a lot. For nothing.
So is “good content” popping out of a walk-in closet 15 times wearing different outfits while giving the same robotic twirl? Is it the same strange, trending voice-over on every single cat video? Is it Stories filled with video shots of Momfluencers sitting in their SUVs reciting their weekly Costco list?
And why do I need a daily pep talk from Reese Witherspoon, unless she is actually going to donate some of her multi-million dollar fortune to me? Because that right there would solve not all, but a lot of my problems, Reese.
If this is what Instagram or brands consider “good content,” repeated on a loop, then I think we have a problem.
4. There is Too Much Focus on Reels and Stories, Even When It Doesn’t Suit Your Business
Instagram, in all its efforts to compete against Tiktok, desperately wants to be a video platform. But I and apparently the reporters at the New York Times think it’s failing pretty miserably. Besides the fact that it is a complete pain to have take and edit any kind of video on your teeny tiny phone with the clunky Instagram app, it’s also tiresome to have to rework your content into a brief, choppy-looking video that doesn’t really fit with your business model or theme at all.
Imagine you’re a photographer or a craftsman that relies heavily on beautiful photos now having to stuff your content into an awkward Reels format. It doesn’t quite fit, right?
Stories has a similar problem, but to me, this feature is far worse and has ruined the Instagram experience entirely. For the most part, I find Stories pretty cringe-worthy, because more often than not, they’re poorly edited, seem random and cryptic, or contain walls of text that no one can read in less than .5 seconds.
But worst of all, they encourage too much oversharing.
Maybe we’re all just voyeurs nowadays, and I know brands preach “authenticity,” but I don’t want to see you doing your daily Target run after yoga class, or worse yet, see literal tears shed from an adult woman over some inconsequential first-world problem like Whole Foods being out of organic avocados. Because God forbid, lady, you don’t get your guac tonight.
Bless your freaking heart.
5. The Platform Could Disappear Tomorrow
How many new platforms have we seen come and go over the years? Remember MySpace?
It would be risky to put all of my quality stuff on Instagram versus here on the web, where, unless I refuse to pay my monthly hosting bill, will pretty much stay here as long as I want it to.
Plus, I’d rather that you find all of what you need here versus waiting for an algorithm feed it to you. You can pause, bookmark, or search, and it’ll be right here when you get back. It won’t fade away after a day like the Story, or be jammed together in a 15-second Reel.
And I guarantee you it’ll be much more useful.
6. It’s Not a Great Confidence Booster, Even for the Very Confident
As confident as you might be, Instagram can still make you feel a little crappy. I’m middle aged so probably less impacted by The Internet People That I’ve Never Met in Person than say, an adolescent. But constantly living in a universe where everyone is operating under the facade of “everything’s awesome all the time” is not particularly fun.
Blogging, as enjoyable as it can be, is also a painfully slow process to acquire any sort of readership—we’re talking years, not months.
That all said, new bloggers don’t need constant comparative reminders of who just got a million dollar book deal to distract them while on their own unique journey.
7. It Seems to Have a Diversity Problem…Still
Brands using Instagram seem to favor a particular look or demographic, which may just be more reflective more of its user base (this is speculation on my part). But let’s be real, it has been years now of more of the same.
I think brands are trying to do better with the whole body-positivity movement, but overall, I’d say it’s still pretty dominated by a certain aesthetic: A thin, blonde, white woman under age 35 with gleaming white dental veneers wearing a $700 designer floral-print prairie dress walking barefoot on an Australian beach with 4 children under the age of 6 in tow.
I’m sure they’re all nice people, these influencers. But this blog and I just don’t live in the more “aspirational” corners of the world.
Because that way of living, unless you are a trust fund baby, is expensive, my friends. And if you stay on that trajectory, you will eventually die poor.
I am not convinced otherwise.
8. The Kids Will Always Pay Attention
This last point is less about the Instagram relationship to blogging but more about what behavior the app encourages. If you’re one of those bloggers who still thinks that near-constant Instagram posting is something that you MUST do to get readership on your blog, then please read on.
Parents know that kids watch everything. That’s not an opinion; I’m going to go out on a limb here and just state this as fact.
But even if you are childless and just have just nieces and nephews, they watch you, too. If you are a teacher, your students are watching. The neighbor kid that lives across the street; even that little kid is watching everything that you do.
If you are an adult participating in the world, you are an involuntary role model. Whether you like it or not. Sorry.
When the excitement that you get from the “likes” on a photo or video is observed by little kids? Well, duh, they internalize it! When a child sees from your behavior and responses that your self-worth is wrapped up in metrics on an app, they learn that this is normal behavior. And then they imitate you.
I don’t want to ever have to be validated by an app and have a small, very impressionable child see me controlled in that way, even for a brief moment.
Because a few seconds of observation from a child is really all that it takes for this kind of programming to begin inside their malleable, still developing little brains.
Instagram May Not Be Sustainable Long Term
Apparently, I’m not alone in wondering if Instagram is really sustainable for those who want to create and promote their own content. According to this Buzzfeed article, today’s influencers are struggling with maintaining their own work-life balance and boundaries.
Some people have had some degree of success getting off the platform entirely, but what if Instagram is where you actually started? Then what?
When most of your content is on a blog, in your direct control, there’s much more flexibility and opportunity to pivot when needed. Social media or video platforms can complement or inform what content exists on a blog, but none of those apps can take your blog offline. You can pull all of your blog content down and create a whole new redesigned website if you want. Your content belongs to you.
Where I’ve Landed on Instagram at This Point
If Instagram improved as an app and gave me more return on my time invested, would I spend more time on the app? Maybe.
But for now, no.
Like many tools that start out with the best of intentions, things can become corrupt and toxic over time.
And that’s how I feel about Instagram today.
For now, I’ll pop on there to show what’s new over here on the blog or to say hi.
But filming Stories of my runs to Costco? Not happening.
Allowing irrelevant strangers to see my family move about in their daily life like some twisted reality show?
Social Media – Some Good Reads and Links
I try to link to facts and sources when I can on this blog, if anything to prevent these posts from reading like my own crazed manifesto.
Everything I’ve linked to in this post and below I’d say has been pretty eye opening when it comes to social media use. The way these tools have changed our lives, whether it is through the perspective of teens, adults, or highly paid influencers, is pretty astounding.
If you check out even just one of these resources, I’d say it’s time well spent. The thoughtful journalists, filmmakers, and tech-industry experts that have put this information together have done a real public service, so I encourage you to support them if you can.
Warning: Some of these films and podcasts cover topics such as suicide and eating disorders. Maybe check them out by yourself before you watch or listen with children around.
I’ll see you later on the ‘Gram, with some pretty “analog” photos and captions. No Reels, and no Stories.
Hope you enjoy it. 🙂