Do you Instagram? I do, and I love it!
I use Instagram to capture things I discover (in Amsterdam and when I travel) and to meet like-minded people. Though I’m a writer, I’m a very visual person—I love spotting details, observing people and places, and finding creativity and inspiration in the wild.
In the Instagram game, the person with the biggest number of followers wins. And getting featured by Instagram itself on their official account is by far the quickest way to gain new followers. Being an Instagram featured user exposes you to their 172 MILLION followers, growing your following by leaps and bounds overnight.
Now, while I use hashtags to participate in the community and be found by new people, I don’t hustle. I don’t have any grand ambitions, I don’t play the numbers game. I ‘gram purely for fun. I have a small following who like my pictures; some have become real-life friends. I post pictures that I personally find aesthetically pleasing, and I try not to spam people. That’s about it.
So imagine how I felt on Sunday night, cleaning up after a dinner party at home, to see one of my pictures on Instagram’s official account!
I’ll let you in on a secret: it wasn’t a total surprise.
Three weeks ago, I received an email from Hannah at Instagram. It was about a photo of a graphic mural I’d posted on our trip to Barcelona in April, and hashtagged #WhenPeopleMatchPlaces.
Could she ask me a few questions and use the photo for a feature on Instagram’s official feed and community blog? I was thrilled and delighted. Yes, of course, absolutely!
Hannah was developing a new series called “Hashtag Highlight,” featuring stories of how people use hashtags in the Instagram community. She wanted to try something new and asked me to shoot a couple of tips for getting the same kind of #WhenPeopleMatchPlaces shot, using just my phone. At first she and I tried to shoot while she was visiting Amsterdam one weekend, but it didn’t work out.
So I took my friend Angel with me to some cool walls Amsterdam Noord. With Angel’s help, I shot a couple of 10-second video tips for getting a good #WhenPeopleMatchPlaces shot.
Instagram ended up not using the videos, but hey! I got quite a few cool pics out of our little shooting trip up north. Maybe those tips will end up in a separate blog post. Would you be interested in seeing that?
After my picture came out on the Instagram feed, it got over 23,000 likes within the first four minutes. Watching that kind of thing happen live is amazing.
Back in the early days, Instagram’s suggested users were placed on a list for two weeks. Two weeks! Today, Instagram updates its feed every one to three hours. But they left me on there for 12 hours without uploading any new pictures, an eternity in this age of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it content and seconds-long attention spans.
As a result, I gained over 1,000 followers overnight. A picture I posted on my own feed at the same time ended up getting 14,900 likes. I don’t know how that all works, but it’s fascinating.
After Instagram started uploading new pictures, pushing me back in their feed, the avalanche of likes and comments slowed to a trickle. About 36 hours later, it’s more or less a stable 930,000 likes. Almost a million!
Reading the comments has been a funny study of human behavior on the Internet. A vast majority of the 6,800+ comments on my photo had nothing to do with me.
About 70% of them were people trying to get attention about something: to drive followers to their own accounts or to complain about how the app works. At the time my photo was posted, everyone seemed to be up in arms about the deletion of someone called @cringey.musical.lys.
The next largest group of comments were on the actual content of the photo. Either they loved it (“the coolest photo I’ve ever seen!”) or hated it (“it hurts my eyes!”).
Some people complained that they or their friends had been doing this kind of shot for longer on Instagram and thus deserved the feature more. Others scorned me for keeping my jacket on and not having a dress that matched the mural exactly. Oh, Internet.
Then… there were the comments on my body. A handful of people called me fat. One even used a pig emoji to stress the point. One guy dug through two years of photos on my feed to find one of me from behind, and made a comment about my ass.
I got DMs from guys commenting on my body and calling me their “dream girl.” The funniest one was from a guy who said “You’re perfectionist.” I can only assume he meant to say I’m perfect. Naturally, I answered none of these DMs.
But there were kind messages too. People don’t have to write a message to tell you they like you, but some did. I appreciated that. The new followers are nice, too.
So that’s my 12-hour brush with Instafame. It’s been cool to get recognition for something that I enjoy doing. But will it change my life? Of course not. I asked my friend Eliane (a social media guru with her own cool Instagram account) if she had any tips for me.
Her advice: “Stick to being yourself. Don’t change.” And that is exactly what I intend to do.