On Episode 2 of The Honesty Chronicles: My Thoughts on Instagram.
The app everyone (especially with the recent, and constant, algorithm changes) loves to hate. What follows might be a rant, or.. appreciation...? I'm not really sure which, to be honest...
I, like most other Millenials, am guilty of spending maybe a little too much time on Instagram... but, here's why... Hear me out.
For one - from a business standpoint... Instagram is a great way to market yourself and your skills... and I'm not just talking photo skills.
Maybe you're really in to exercise, cooking, or writing. As a matter of fact, much of the traffic to this website comes from Instagram, allowing me to target a relevant audience and to greatly increase the reach of my writing and videos. This has led to both collaboration and job opportunities that I wouldn't have had otherwise.
Two. Unless you're just carelessly snapping and posting any and everything you see, Instagram is an art... and, yes, it is self expression.
What we see on our tiny screens, more often than not, is not reality... rather, it's someone's ideal vision of their observations... cropped, edited, and filtered to portray a place or thing that, when experienced, sparked their imagination and creativity. It made them want to pick up their camera to snap a photo - to freeze a moment in time.
Your way and my way of seeing things are not the only ways to view this world... and I think it's pretty cool that, via Instagram, we get to see the world through each other's eyes. I have come across some pretty amazing photographers on this app. They take the kind of photos that truly capture life... the type that make you feel something... that make you add a new place to your bucket list, just so you can see it with your own eyes... if only once.
Three. I've also met some pretty amazing people (and also some shitty ones, but mostly great ones) because of Instagram. No, seriously... like, in real life. I even collaborated on one of my favorite projects with an Instagram friend.
You see, if your time on Instagram can best be described as mindless scrolling... occasionally double tapping your "+1heart" of approval, well... then you're doing it wrong. It CAN be just another stupid, life-sucking, time wasting, app that leaves you more disconnected... or, it can actually be SOCIAL media. Again... Yes, I’m serious.
Last fall when I travelled to Hong Kong, I met up with a local photographer, and London native, to do some roof-topping. Well, I'd originally intended to meet up with a different Insta-friend... but when he wasn't able to make it, he suggested I go with his mate Thom instead.
So there I was... in a country that, despite visiting a couple times, is still very foreign to me... about to meet up with a complete stranger to climb around on a roof. This could have ended very poorly... I know. But it didn't - because, believe it or not, the world isn't such a scary place after all, and people are mostly good.
Meeting up with a stranger, no matter where you are, is a bit nerve-racking at first, but the awkwardness always goes away after the first few minutes (or beers)... and if it doesn't, you run... like I ran from my last Tinder date when he told me he was a psychopath. No seriously... among other things, he said he was a psychopath, compulsive liar, and a sociopath... and after giving him one too many opportunities to say he was joking, I left an unfinished margarita AND guacamole on the table... and went home... It was that bad.
Anyway, unlike my unfortunate meetups with Tinderfellas, that evening in Hong Kong wasn't awkward at all.
On a random rooftop by the harbor, we watched the sun go down and the city light up. We drank a few beers and had a great chat. At first it was the normal, "Where are you from?" "What do you do here?" "How long have you been in Asia?" get to know you type of chat... and then we talked about literally everything that you're not supposed to talk about the first time you meet someone - politics, exes, travels, and dating in Asia which, for me, is a literal nightmare... (*reference previous paragraph for psycho Tinder date*).
Well... There was one slightly awkward point in the evening.
Remember that beer we'd been drinking? As luck would have it, it went straight through me... so there came a point in the conversation where I had to tell this new friend (who had been a complete stranger a couple hours prior), "I have to pee."
So, we came down from the roof and he proceeded to find a hotel close by that let me use their bathroom. Such a gent. By the end of that evening, once our feet were back on the ground (and I'd broken the seal) I'd say he knew me better than some friends I've "known" for years.
Flash forward to Winter Break.
I got a message from Thom, who was on Holiday in Japan, with a link to someone’s Instagram profile who he'd met in Osaka. He asked if I knew her and said, “She's American, lives in Korea, and likes roof-topping too.”
All three of those statements describe me, so, though I didn’t know this girl at the time, I decided I needed to. And now I do.
Turns out, though she didn't live in Seoul, she's here just about every weekend. So after failing to hang out twice because of bad weather and unexpected events, we finally met one evening to go snap rooftop photos and eat knock-off Chipotle.
Third times the charm.
(Side note, knock-off Chipotle, aka Cuchara, is actually pretty good. If you live in Seoul and get the occasional Chipotle craving, you've gotta go... Gangnam Station. Exit 8. You're welcome).
We sat above Gangnam snapping photos and enjoying the silence... save for a few (hundred) honking horns. We watched life go by below us - the cars, pedestrians, and people wiping out at an iceskating rink - and watched what I guess was a sunset... or, rather, what we could see of it through the thick layer of pollution covering the city.
And, just like that, not one but two friendships were made. REAL connections, sparked by one simple message that triggered interactions between four people... in three different countries... and two real life friendships. And that's how "engagement" should be.
Nowadays, with Instagram, you have to pay to win - (And... for the record, no Instagram, I will not promote this photo though "it's doing better than 85% of my recent posts").
Thanks to the new algorithm, engagement is dropping and the accounts of the little guys aren't growing. Many people aiming to "beat the system" are willing to pay for follows from empty accounts, just to make it look like they've got a larger audience. While, yes, it would be nice to have loads of followers, as it would mean having both the swipe up feature (WHICH I WANT!) and likely more collaboration opportunities, what good is it if these "followers" aren't even real?
When you get wrapped up in the numbers, you're missing the point... because behind all of these accounts is a person... not a potential like. Not a number... a person... who you likely have more in common with than you think.
We have the world (and many of its inhabitants) at our fingertips... We have an opportunity, unlike ever before, to express ourselves, our passions, and to let our voices be heard. In this sea of voices, let's not always try to shout over everyone else... using this platform solely to boast about our own accomplishments, travels, or possessions.
Yes, it's a highlight reel... but let's keep it real. Let's be vulnerable. Let's collaborate. And let's connect - in real life.
Though I've already made many friends thanks to Instagram, I truly hope to continue making more... to keep connecting with and, if I'm in the same country or city, meeting incredible, like-minded, absolutely talented individuals. That's what it's all about.
Screw the algorithm. Let's make social media great (and social) again.
So, about those genuine, talented, individuals...
Here are some of my favorite people on Instagram... in no particular order.