How Breaking A Few Rules Helped Me Fall Back In Love With Instagram

Woman sitting at a desk writing in a notebook

Not so long ago I fell out of love with Instagram in a big way.

This wasn’t down to The Algorithm, which I know killed a lot of enthusiasm for the platform. I was just bored with it. My fingers would swipe reflexively over my phone screen, opening the app on autopilot and trundling over the long list of images without really seeing any of them. Try as I might I couldn’t find any inspiration or enjoyment, and I just couldn’t figure out why because I thought I was doing everything right.

I was following beautiful accounts packed full of inspiring images of interiors and flowers and slow living. I was following creatives doing wonderful, inventive things with their photography. My feed was a visual feast, and yet I wasn’t loving it. I would show up to see what a handful of favourite people and friends were up to, and I would spend a lot of time on stories, but I felt pretty meh about everything else. And as for sharing my own content? Forget about it.

My feed was a visual feast, and yet I wasn’t loving it.

But here’s the thing. Instagram is where my people are at. As I work on building my business as a writer and a creative I cannot ignore how important Instagram is in forging connections and providing an additional platform for my content. So over the past month I started exploring how I could find the love for the platform again.

I had internalised a lot of “rules” about how to get the most out of Instagram, and very few of them suited me. When I started to test those rules, and then to ignore them, I felt my inspiration for creating content coming back.

Here’s what I learned:

It’s not about the pictures

But Instagram is a platform for sharing pictures isn’t it? Yes, and no. As a writer, I’ve found that the images are just a gateway to the stories underneath. For me the caption is where the magic happens. So the first thing I decided to do was lead with the caption. I jotted down a list of topics that I wanted to write about and drafted a series of captions around those topics. Now whenever I plan my content for Instagram the caption always comes first and the image last.

I love taking photographs, and I’m relatively good at it. But I have no desire to be a photographer, and it isn’t important to me that my pictures be perfect. I made a conscious decision to share images that make me happy, that I like, and that are just ok. I’m not looking for an Instagram feature or a #WHP windfall. I need my image to draw someone in so that they feel welcome and excited to read my words.

It’s not about how pretty a grid is

I have completely changed my criteria for choosing to follow an account. Before I followed the “rule” of looking at their grid and making an assessment based on how attractive it was. But all this did was fill my feed with more sameness, and with content that didn’t really speak to me.

I began to realise this when I started following more social justice and anti-racism activists, and more causes that mattered to me. These accounts are not designed to be beautiful, they are designed to challenge people and trigger a conversation. Once those voices started appearing regularly in my feed I began to realise how much I needed Instagram to be platform where I could find education, where I could be challenged and made to think. Now my standard for following an account is not the quality of photography on a grid, but the story of the person behind the grid.

It IS all about your passions and your interests

Ultimately, Instagram is a very simple platform that has the potential to be multiple things to a multitude of people. You can create a feast of interiors inspiration, or beautiful artistic photography if that is what you want. You can equally create a space that informs and challenges you. You can find a happy medium somewhere in the middle. What I found is that by unlearning everything I thought I had been taught about Instagram, I was able to re-build my feed into a place where I genuinely want to spend time. Every time I open the app I find a story that I want to engage with, or a topic that will challenge or stimulate me.

Now I feel as though my account more accurately reflects who I am, an environment where I can learn and engage in discussion, and where I can more freely express myself than before. These platforms are fluid and flexible, and we can build them as we want to create places that fill us and give us energy.

How do you feel about your favourite social media platforms? And what do you do to stay inspired by what you see?

If your answer to that question is “meh, not loving it”, here is my challenge to you. Find five new accounts to follow that break all of your “rules”, that speak to you on an intellectual or spiritual or emotional level. And see where you go from there. Good luck.

What do you think?