Why I'm Falling Out of Love With Instagram

Alright y'all, time to get real. Lately it seems to be the case that using Instagram has caused me more grief than anything else. What with the new algorithm and decreased engagement rates, despondently absent customer service, brands continuously trying to get you to pay them to promote them (no, I refuse to feature your item at a 33% discount off your 133% jacked up price, sorry not sorry), and this pesky little thing called the Shadowban, I've had a rocky few days using the photo-sharing app. It's caused me to reevaluate a few things that are important to me and how I should use Instagram, and whether I should even bother using it, from now on.

I'm relatively new to the world of blogging, and it can be disconcerting to see tanking engagement rates when Instagram is your primary way to grow your blog as well as your brand. I've dealt with decreased engagement rates over the past few months with the new algorithm (This isn't a post about that, but I'm sure I could write a rant about it if I didn't think it would make your ears bleed). What really got my goat was the stress of getting shadowbanned on instagram.

What does shadowbanning mean? It's when your hashtags show up to your followers and yourself, but not to anyone who doesn't follow you. That's the tricky part: you think everything is going hunky-dory, but really you're quite invisible. If you depend on hashtags to grow your following and expand (which to my knowledge, most do, especially if you're a smaller blog), this can decrease your exposure to potential new followers and leave you stagnant.

A prime example is a photo of donuts that I posted earlier this week, using the single hashtag "#hugsanddonuts"

When it was met with significantly decreased engagement (less than 40-50 likes in the first hour--to give you a frame of mind, I tend to hit 90-100 in the first hour and recently 70-80 with lower engagement), I got a little paranoid and decided to investigate the hashtag. This is what it looks like if I'm searching the hashtag from my account:

See my post there, in the lower left corner, between the donuts-on-yellow-background and the child enjoying a donut. Everything looks A-OK. Someone may find my post, then my account, and like my stuff! Welcome, new brethren! Well, this is what you see from an account who doesn't follow me:

See? My post has vanished! It's hard to say how long this has been going on, and how many posts of mine this has affected. All I know is, when I found out this weekend, it caused havoc in my brain. Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong? And how do I get rid of the blasted thing?

Many may wonder why this even matters. For those who use instagram as a way to market themselves or their blog, it's a disadvantage to not show up on the public's hashtag feed. Hashtags seem to be the primary way for influencers and brands to reach new viewership, short of paid ads (which are tacky, by the way. 95% of the time, I ignore sponsored posts on my feed). Instagram itself has also begrudgingly acknowledged a hashtag "problem," suggesting a possible glitch and not a nefarious ban. They do not acknowledge the existence of a shadowban. However, they may have indirectly admitted it when they suggested not relying so much on hashtags. With their customer support being notoriously difficult to reach (essentially absent), it can turn a frustrating experience into something even more unpleasant.

When I noticed, I immediately disconnected a few applications that may have closely resembled "post schedulers" that had API access to my account. I also decreased my own engagement significantly, and stopped commenting and liking the photos on my feed or on the explore page for 1-2 days. I did not log off. I stopped using 30 hashtags in my comments, and decided to go with 11-15 in my caption instead. This seemed to work for my next post, but as of now the donut picture still remains shadowbanned (???), so the mystery remains. Am I still shadowbanned? Will I be shadowbanned forever?

So what am I going to do about this? Up and quit? Honestly, I thought about that briefly, fantasizing about it as a protest or a way to make myself feel better. Free myself from the anxiety. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that me quitting would only hurt myself. Nobody is going to notice my big epic protest, to be perfectly honest. Instagram isn't going to magically revamp their entire customer service department because one tiny user decided to stop posting. And if I'm honest with myself, I love sharing photographs, whether they be of my outfits, daily life, or travel. I love learning new techniques on photoshop, new ways to edit, scoping out fun locations to shoot and experimenting with fashion. I love traveling and documenting all the beautiful sights. I love growing and learning to slowly cultivate a theme. Ultimately, Instagram is still a great way to share your photos short of creating a portfolio--for a student who has trouble with upkeep and doesn't want to pay anyone to help me design/run anything, Instagram is the better option. There's too much I love about photography and sharing photography to give it up. But still, something needed to change.

I realized that I've been focusing too much on numbers: thinking that I should be at a certain point and feeling inadequate when I'm not. I realize that I've got to stop comparing myself to others, because nobody (or at least not many) are in my exact same situation. I've got limitations and barriers in some regards (i.e. the lack of money definitely stings sometimes; the student life can be boring and busy), but in other aspects I have advantages and a unique perspective that nobody else can offer. It's going to be difficult, but I'm going to let "growth" come as it may and really focus on working on what I love in the first place: photography, fashion, and the artistic process.

So maybe I am falling out of love with Instagram; its numbers loaded with some self-ascribed meaning, the game of it all. But I'm redirecting that love towards something else that will help me in the long run even as social media changes around me: continuing to create, continuing to grow as a blogger and a photographer.

Anyways, here are the outfit deets:

Romper: Tobi
White Sneaks: Adidas Neo Cloudfoam Shoes in White Haze/Coral
Sunglasses: TheCobraSnake Almost Famous Shades

Do you have experience getting shadowbanned? Let me know in the comments below!