So I wrote about this topic a few days ago underneath an Instagram post that I posted after leaving again for two weeks. My ‘online presence’ (can we all gag for a minute) has been inconsistent for so long now; Making a comeback for a little while and then disappearing again into silence. I always ended up drained after a couple of weeks wondering why I didn’t have the self-discipline to post consistently anymore. And, as per usual, I started thinking..

INSTAGRAM CULTUE & THE ATTENTION ECONOMY

When I first started posting more on Instagram the algorithm wasn’t in place yet and posts were ordered by time. But when ‘the dreaded algorithm’ did come into play, it changed quite a few things. Most importantly the fact that this algorithm would now be the one deciding to whom it would show your post and to whom not. This means the algorithm rates your profile and post by looking at several factors such as; your posting frequency, your overall engagement, how much you use stories & other features, content and whatever else we don’t know. I personally believe this rating and sorting of content led people to feel pressured into ‘staying relevant’, especially after everyone saw a huge drop in their engagement and followers after the launch of the algorithm.

Combine this with the fact that online you are basically always trying to triumph yourself and your ‘competition’ in a race for the attention from the (potential) follower/consumer. We live in what people call an attention economy where our attention and engagement is worth money. And to achieve this goal in an oversaturated online world where our attention spans are a measly 8.25 seconds (measured in 2015) means that people will go bigger, better and brighter. This is why images on Instagram need to be immediately captivating, why almost every YouTube video nowadays has a clickbait title and why Instagram and other platforms introduced an algorithm in the first place. They are all begging for more of your attention.

 

MARKETING OF THE INSTAGRAM LIFE & THE DOPAMINE RUSH

Probably nobody still believes that nothing is being marketing to them when they scroll through their social media. By now we all know that it is a business and that we are being exposed to sponsored posts on the daily. But what if I told you that there is another type of marketing going on? One that is a bit more subtle and that you might even partake in as well. I call it ‘the Marketing of the Instagram Life’. Since becoming a business, a lot of people are more than aware of the immense possibilities Instagram offers. Influencers sit front row at fashion shows and show of their luxurious life in Bali or Australia as a digital nomad. The dream life seems just around the corner. Where old school celebritites used to feel very far away for the average person, turning social media into something more feels doable. And who the f*ck still works a 9-5 job anyway, right!? (That was obviously sarcasm but I feel the need to point it out lol). They don’t have to add in the #ad or tell you to buy a specific product, yet most influencers are marketing the ‘Instagram as a job life’ to you just as much as any other regular company. Some people will just end up a bit jealous and sad, while others might get inspired to pursue the same path.

The ones who pursue the path of creating and posting content themselves will be in for a rollercoaster of emotions if they are not in the right headspace. The dopamine rush from the new followers and likes will make them love the app, but once setbacks hit they might be disappointed. Trust me when I say that it is extremely easy to be influenced by your ‘progress & setbacks’ on social media. After all, you are on there to achieve something, don’t try to deny that. Whether you seek growth as you’re trying to be an influencer or simply entertainment when you’re a consumer; You are online with a goal and that goal is very likely to be something along the lines of achieving positive emotion. Each time you refresh your timeline for new images or check your likes on your last post, you are subconsciously trying to get that sweet, sweet dopamine hit.

THE TROUBLE

And it is this is where we start to get in trouble, creators and consumers alike. We become addicts to this feeling and seek it out constantly, but this means disappointments also have a chance of getting at us. We get accustomed to where we at in the moment and once we achieve our goals we are already onto the next ones. We start comparing ourselves to people living the ‘Instagram life’, to our past successes and to other people who are doing well. We start blaming the algorithm and our online presence and self-image can become blurred. Or we become so caught up in everything screaming for our attention that we get nothing done, that we get sucked into the hole of endless information but remember nothing. This is when social media becomes toxic.

EVERYTHING STARTS WITH US

But it doesn’t have to be.

As with so many things in this world; it all starts with us. Our perceptions, opinions, thoughts and feelings are exactly that: OURS. Too often we focus our energy on things we can’t control such as the algorithm, other people, the Instagram culture, and feel helpless in the things we can control such as stopping comparison, changing negative emotions and to a certain extend being selective with our attention. It is easier to blame, complain and feel annoyed than to work on our own perceptions and negative self-image. But we are the ones who can decide where we place our focus and importance, whether you want to admit it or not.

And I believe that for me personally, this is the reason why I haven’t been consistent with Instagram for over almost 1.5 years now. Trying to get back into posting when the past motivator (the growth, the dopamine hit and also the past community that basically fell apart) has lost its significance doesn’t work when you haven’t got something else to replace it with. I follow only a select group of people on Instagram and after posting something I don’t even check the likes at all, that’s how much I care about those things nowadays. Can’t quite give you a certain path to follow to get to the same point I’m at. Honestly I don’t even know when, how or why it exactly happened. But there are things I want to do and things I want to achieve and if it wasn’t for those facts and the fact that I love writing captions and blogposts then I’m pretty sure I would have moved on by now.

I’m going to have to find a reason to start posting consistently beyond my ego since I lost that motivator a long, long time ago. There are different reasons to post, different ways also, and different ways to interact with social media. If you guys are interested in reading another longass blogposts on how to get a better relationship with social media & the internet and such then do leave me a comment and/or question down below and I will be more that happy to do that and answer your questions! But for now all I would recommend for you to do be aware of everything I just wrote down here (the attention economy, the Instagram life marketing and the dopamine rush) and question why you follow who you follow, why you care about what you care about and why you have trouble staying focused or maintaining healthy self-esteem. Because social media might be toxic, but it might also be not.