When was the last time you thought about your relationship with Instagram? Yes, your relationship.
Do you scroll with intention? Is your feed inspiring? Are your interactions positive or at least constructive? Are you feeling any pressure from yourself or others to do more or less?
There are no wrong answers. Just reflect.
This article is not about building Instagram growth. Instead, it’s about checking in with your experience in a digital space consisting of over a billion users. Self-reflection is important in such a large and ever-expanding space.
Whether you’re a lonely island art teacher in need of community, want to curate your own museum-like collections for inspiration, build a business brand, or look at cute kitties, Instagram can be whatever you need it to be.
It can also be overwhelming.
So, let’s consider best practices and the positive mindset necessary to optimize your experience as a virtual citizen.
What is Instagram?
Imagine Instagram as a virtual multiverse. Your imagination is the limit of travel. If you can think of it, you can be anywhere and see anything with the gentle tap of your thumb. Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia? Definitely. Vintage photography from the 40s and 50s? A hashtag search will reveal amazing moments in time. How about composite images of deep outer space from NASA? It’s all there. The specificity of what you can find is pretty miraculous.
And since you’re the captain of your ship in this limitless photo-sharing multi-verse, you get to decide where to journey. So the question becomes, why are you venturing? What do you need? What do you want to discover?
What’s Your Motive?
Whether you are redesigning your Instagram feed or are new to the platform, it’s important to distinguish your goals. Do you want an interactive experience to forge connections and build community? Are you hoping to browse privately and find inspiration for your personal endeavors? Are you going for growth building a brand or business?
Again, there are no wrong answers.
Based on your goals, your actions and experience on Instagram will look different.
Do a self-check-in. Instagram is a complex and sometimes intense space to navigate. It’s okay if your goals and motivations evolve and adapt. That’s normal, natural, and expected. Just as your personal and professional needs and interests change over time, the same principles apply to your relationship with Instagram.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing yourself to or criticizing others will not be helpful for your Instagram experience. If you find yourself getting lost in envy or anxiety while looking at others’ feeds, redirect your energy to your needs and desires. Be mindful of why you’re engaging within that digital space.
Read more about comparison and a healthy social media relationship here.
Make sure your experience on Instagram is positive. You’re allowed to unfollow or mute accounts that don’t add to your positive experience. Circle back to your motivations and goals. If your goal is to passively scroll through pictures of adorable baby animals because it makes you feel good—do it. If your goal is to become a huge influencer and build a business—that’s awesome, too.
Take care of yourself, and remember that you are the one holding the device at the end of the day. You have control.
The photos in your feed are generated based upon your levels of interest. Your potential interest determines your patterns of activity. If you engage with a certain topic or account more frequently, you will see more images within that topic/account.
If you feel unhappy, unmotivated, or bored with what your feed is showing you, there are action steps you can take to redesign your account.
For more information on the Instagram algorithm, read here.
Algorithm or not, you have the power to design an Instagram feed that feeds your soul.
1. Spring Cleaning
You are allowed to clean out your Instagram closet. It’s okay to unfollow accounts. It’s okay not to follow people back when you get new followers. You don’t exchange numbers with everyone you smile at in the grocery store, right? It’s not a sign of disrespect. However, it can certainly feel personal to the human being on the other side whose goals are different from yours.
Before emotions take hold, consider all of the variables and remember we should take not all actions from fellow users personally. Acknowledge that you cannot control the reactions or goals of others. Let your actions be based on your personal goals.
We are all simply venturing into the digital multiverse. And we can have the best time if we output respect and withhold reactionary judgment.
2. Intentional Searching vs. Passive Exploration
When you click the “Search” icon, you will see the “Explore” page first. This page shows photos, videos, and users you may or may not follow. The content is generated based on your engagement with similar media. The “Search” bar is at the top. However, it’s small and can be easily missed.
Instead of scrolling through the “Explore” page’s predetermined content, try searching for specific topics that deviate from your normal activity. For example, try looking through your favorite artist’s followers. You might find some cool things there.
Once you have intentionally searched and discovered, note how your “Explore” page has shifted. This is because you’re making the platform work for you.
3. “Save” versus “Like”
Looking at “Likes” versus “Saves” from the user’s perspective is very different from the content creator’s perspective. That’s another topic involving IG growth. Here, let’s consider “Likes” versus “Saves” from the view of the user, viewer, or scroller.
When you “Like” or “Save” content, Instagram will show you more images from that account or hashtag. If you “Like” an image, that image won’t appear again. If you “Save” content, you can create endless albums to be revisited and modified at will. You become the curator of your own private museum. “Collections” can be revamped and expanded at any time, free of charge!
4. Acknowledging Imperfection
As social beings, we have a natural desire to seek inspiration, connection, and community. Instagram is an excellent platform to find inspiration, share stories, and fuel creativity. But there are a lot of human beings there. Remember: most accounts are run by fellow human beings—and human beings are imperfect. Unfortunately, Instagram can be a heavy veil over that imperfection. Stories become “best-of” highlights, “honest” depictions can be staged and misleading. And connection, as well as community, can feel insincere when the numbers are too high.
Don’t forget your motivations for being a member of Instagram. Take control of what you see and how you feel by practicing mindfulness while using the app. And if your mindfulness is a mindless scroll through gorgeous cake decorations, let it be so. Your experience should honor your needs. And your needs are valid. Acknowledge the imperfect nature of Instagram and take control of what it adds to your life.
What are your motivations and goals for using Instagram?
When was the last time you refreshed your IG account?
How can you ensure your digital experience is positive and constructive?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.