When I first started this blog, I took to Instagram to generate traffic and interest. Switching my once-private personal account public, hunting down the appropriate hashtags, and upping my interactions with other users really helped to increase my engagement, but, as the likes rolled in, I still couldn’t help but compare myself to other more successful accounts. I began to doubt the quality of my content down to the composition of my shots, my poses, and my camera.
As my focus for this blog evolved from jetsetting to finding everyday adventure, I realized that I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself to conform with the shots I saw on the travel accounts I was following. Here’s how you can manage the often unrealistic expectations and pressure on social media while also fostering pride in your own posts.
Accept that social media is a “highlight reel”.
So many of us (including me) sometimes fail to understand that social media outlets like Instagram paint an idealized picture of life and skew our perceptions of beauty, meaning, and normalcy. People tend only to post about the positive aspects in their life, letting the negative moments recede into the shadows. Because the use of social media pervades most of our lives, it becomes easy to see these highlights as the standard. It’s important to remind yourself that the images and experiences you see on social media are not the norm but rather the best events in a series of moments that make up our lives.
Example: If you were to take my Instagram in its current state as an indication of my life, you would think I’ve been in Puerto Rico for the past three weeks! But if my Instagram were to really, truly represent my life, I don’t think anyone would follow my posts from a stark white desk at my corporate job…
Dispel the illusion behind posts.
Try to evaluate how much work went into setting up the photo before allowing yourself to feel badly about your own, keeping in mind that even the appearance of effortlessness these days takes time and work. As you can see from the goofy pictures in this post, the path to a perfect photo is paved using 25% acceptable shots and 75% shots that make me question what my boyfriend even sees in me…
In other words, it’s unfair to compare your posts to what could very well be highly orchestrated and contrived photos, especially if they were created by professionals (I am not a professional). When scrolling through your Instagram feed, ask yourself these questions:
- Who created the post? (Is he/she a travel blogger, photographer, editorial model, etc.?)
- How was this scene set up? (What time of day is it? What props are being used? Who could be taking the picture, and where could he or she be standing?)
- Is this a realistic portrayal of the scene or subject? (Is the person wearing reasonable attire for the setting, or is he wearing, for example, a full suit in the middle of the desert? Would this person’s skin look that flawless if I passed him/her on the street?)
- How many tries did it take to get this shot?
- Would I enjoy putting in the same effort? Would taking a photo like this add to or detract from my day?
Example: I once came across one traveler’s account filled with bright, beautiful shots of her posed in today’s most popular travel destinations. As I began to feel envious of her photos (and, in turn, insecure about mine), I stopped at a perfectly composed photo of her having a “solo” picnic on the wide railing of a Florentine bridge, complete with the red gingham blanket, a box of piping hot pizza, and even some artfully sliced watermelon! Seeing that there was not a single soul in the background, I realized that it must have been taken in the early morning, likely no later than 6. This photo, while definitely breathtaking, had clearly taken a considerable amount of effort! I, as Courtney, would personally have been happier exploring Florence with the rest of the crowd at a later time. (I’m not a morning person!)
Curate a feed that adds value.
You should be paying close attention to whom or what you follow because what you see in your feed has a chance to affect what you perceive as beautiful, meaningful, or even just normal. Don’t allow anyone whose posts don’t add value to your life to affect these perceptions. That being said, only you know what makes you feel guilty, inadequate, joyful, inspired, and so on, so consider how you react to certain posts, then evaluate whether or not this content is something you’d like to continue seeing. Choose wisely!
Example: After acknowledging that the photos the above blogger posted, while delightful to look at, would cause me to feel inadequate and pressure myself to take similar pictures, I decided to unfollow her. This was definitely not because her posts were inherently negative, harmful, or not deserving of “likes,” but more a function of how they made me feel on an individual basis.
Understand the message your own posts are sending.
Whether you have 1 million followers or just one, the content you create can influence whoever views it, and, just as I’ve suggested to hold others responsible for their content, you should also evaluate the message and potential impact of whatever you post. I’m not here to slut-shame or police the content anyone publishes. Rather, what I mean by this is that what you post should hold up to the expectations you have of others’ posts. It’s pretty useless to try to be intentional about the content you follow if your own posts fall into what you’re trying to avoid.
With that said, for the sake of your self-esteem and creative individuality, if you have a particular style, niche, or thesis, stick to it! There is no use saturating social media with more of the same just because it’s what’s popular. You’ll create more of an impact by letting your passions, rather than the approval of others, motivate you! (And if you’re struggling for traffic like I currently am, at least you’ll have fun doing it.)
Think of Murad Osmann, creator of the “Follow Me To” series, whose unconventional shots featuring his girlfriend (now wife) leading him toward breathtaking scenes have become social media phenomena. Fun fact: Osmann created many of his initial shots using his iPhone, which goes to show you don’t need expensive equipment to make an impact!
Example: My thesis: If my content is going to be about everyday adventure, I want my photos to reflect that idea, not just in what they actually show but in how they were taken. Photos are an excellent way to preserve memories of that moment in time, but they don’t mean much if what I remember of that moment in time is the frustration of engineering the “perfect” shot. I don’t want to put this kind of pressure on myself, let alone on anyone who looks at my posts.
Put it into practice!
I hope you find these suggestions useful to keeping you and your self-esteem happy on social media. These outlets are such a great resource for meeting like-minded souls and people who can inspire you no matter what your interests – and it’s just plain fun, if you use it mindfully.
What techniques do you use to cope with the pressure on social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments below!