The past few months I’ve been working on building up my personal brand, particularly on social media. One of the main focuses has been my Instagram account, because this platform is the perfect medium for me to tell stories through photos.
By nature I am a storyteller and, in a lot of ways, I use my Instagram as a micro-journal to let people know what I am thinking or feeling on any given day. My personal brand building has been going really well. In fact, my Instagram following has been growing at an astronomical rate.
People relate to things that are real. They don’t always want to see a picture of a cat or a flat lay. They want something dynamic, like really engaging posts (picture + caption) and that’s part of the reason for the growth. At the end of the day it is about providing value back to your audience in some small way.
Now, this all sounds good, but along the way I noticed something. Something very wrong was happening under the surface. Every now and then, there were moments where I would catch myself tying my personal worth to how many likes I got on Instagram or how many views I get on Snapchat.
Let me quickly give you an example. A few weeks ago, I was at a photoshoot and at the end, right before everyone left, we all exchanged Instagram handles so we could stay in touch. As we began going around, I met and followed someone who had over 10k followers and something weird happened, I felt a little less than.
The feeling stuck around for a lot longer than normal, because everyone I began following had a bigger following than I did, by sizable margins.
I just kept thinking, “Why is my account not bigger or not better?” For a brief moment, instead of focusing on the new friendships I was making, I was focused on myself and my lack of following. I wasn’t in the “top followers” club and I felt left out of this imaginary group.
Now, I'm not saying that it isn’t normal to have these kinds of thoughts, but it is bad to let them grow on you. Furthermore, it is destructive to allow yourself to believe them.
Now, in retrospect, I am thinking to myself, “Why would my Instagram following portray the kind of person I am?” It can’t right. I mean someone with tens of thousands of followers isn’t necessarily a better person than someone with 300 followers, but it’s easy to fall into that mindset.
The answer, it doesn’t. Only if we choose to let it. Subconsciously we all fall into the trap of getting so tied to the numbers: the the likes, the follows, the pins, the retweets, etc. They make us feel powerful and, when compared to someone else, better than.
But, NEWSFLASH, none of those metrics define who we are as people. Social media is a place for interaction between people, often around a diverse range of topics. We must never forget that the “social” aspect comes before the media.
It’s important to focus more on providing value in our posts (besides the coffee shots or selfie collages) and engaging with others.
What’s amazing in all of this is that, you get to decide where you derive your worth. In a day and age where self worth has become a hot topic, it is extremely important to make sure that you don’t hinge it on your next like.
I’ve been so fortunate to meet many amazing people and brands through my Instagram account. At the end of last year, I found a local photography meetup group, through an Instagrammer in NC. I just happened to be browsing and stumbled onto her account.
I reached out saying that I was a beginner to photography and wanted some help getting better. From that one interaction I have meet some of my best friends, who challenge me to continue getting better in how I see the world. In addition, my photography level has improved to a level that would not have been possible without their help.