From the day I posted my first image of two air-brushed cowgirls on a truck tailgate, I’ve been hooked on instagram. I love the platform for it’s simplicity, hunt-ability, and intimate quality. For me, it’s primarily a vehicle of discovery. It’s where I found the Hotel Costes, the killer style of a lady named Sydney Ballesteros, the incredible eye of Andy Spade, and scored entrance to the Feast of St. Cecilia. At it’s best, instagram is a portal into hidden worlds of interesting people, places, and visual inspiration. At it’s worst, a catalyst for comparison and self-doubt.

No matter what group you’re running with online (moms who only do kid pics, selfie-happy millennials, or die-hard professional photographers) it seems like only one thing about insta is truly universal: those darned little numbers. All of a sudden our lives (and our selves) seem quantifiable. You’ve got 2k followers? Well she’s got 5. Your baby’s photo has 100 likes? Someone else’s has more. A lot more. It’s tempting for all of us to translate those numbers into some sort of truth. And that’s where we get into trouble. I can’t tell you how many friends have confided in me that looking at instagram is an increasingly upsetting experience for them. In those conversations I’m always tempted to defend my favorite little hobby and say, it doesn’t have to be that way!

For me, it all goes back to the simple thought: What’s popular isn’t always best. Allow me an example. If we’re going to measure everything by the masses, then I guess Titanic is one of the absolute greatest films of all time because hey, it killed at the box office. See what I mean? That logic is flawed. And sometimes only time and perspective can reveal it.

As a culture, we don’t have much perspective yet on social media and it’s affect on us. But if this app is at all a mirror on our society, then there are some not-so-pleasant (if not entirely new) truths to be dealt with. 1: We like pretty people.ย  2: We like entire families of pretty people even more. But I would argue that those are just the lowest common denominators between us. And that some of us value sincerity, humor, intelligence, kindness and individuality even more. I know I do.

I’ve had friends who blew past me in terms of followers because they worked at it. They figured out the formula (bikes, shoes, flowers, repeat) and stuck with it. But I’m not tempted to follow that pattern, because it doesn’t interest me. I’d rather stay true to myself and use the platform to seek out new discoveries and experiment with creating images that are interesting to me, likes be damned. It doesn’t have to be a contest. I also would never feel obligated to follow someone whose content was upsetting to me in any way. I think those are the two practices that have kept instagram an overall positive experience for me.

How do you feel about the app? Does scrolling through your feed leave you feeling inspired or inadequate? We’re dying to know… do you have instagram-xiety?

featured image via petite blanche


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Comments (17)
  1. 1
    Angela Leong July 28, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for sharing the thoughts of yours and I really agree with what you are saying, stay true to yourself! I think it must be a place people connect with each other without doing blindly, as it will loose the main purpose behind it soon. (:

  2. 2
    ursals July 28, 2015 at 10:44 am

    You nailed it. I have Instagram anxiety, but you just helped aliviate it a bit ๐Ÿ˜‰ thank you!!

  3. 3
    Andrea McAlister July 28, 2015 at 11:29 am

    NO instagram-xiety over here. But I do get a little FOMO when I see a pool insta post and I am stuck at work inside. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. 4
    Stefanie Rose July 28, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I know exactly what you are talking about. It is difficult from time to time to find the balance between what you actually really like to post, and what your followers want in order to keep your account growing.

    x Stefanie

  5. 5
    Camille Styles July 28, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing thoughts on this, Jenn — working in a field where social media is part of your job can add an extra layer of Instagram-xiety… especially if you’re judging success on number of followers and likes! I find that when my focus is on staying true to myself and expressing creativity and moments of beauty, the “likes” are a natural result. And striving to get likes is usually pretty obvious. Thanks for the great reminder to keep it authentic and keep it fun!

  6. 6
    K Marchetti July 28, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    I agree! It doesn’t have to be that way.

    While facebook may be able to put me in a funk, Instagram has always been such a great place for inspiration, and encouragement if you follow the right people.

    I love getting to see how others view the world around them, how professional photographers capture the awe inspiring, and how people turn the every-day-details of life into art.

  7. 7
    Chanel Dror July 28, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Instagram used to majorly frustrate me. It’s not that I compared myself to others, but the “formula” of posting and seeing the same photos on repeat just plain bugged me! What’s the point of being like everyone else, just in the interest of gaining popularity? I hated feeling like the medium was turning me into a critical hater, so I would take breaks for weeks at a time just to detox and get some relief from it all.

    A few months ago I did a major purge of the people I follow, and narrowed the crop down to just a couple hundred people who I genuinely love and find inspiring or entertaining. Anyone whose posts brought me down didn’t make the cut, and since then, it’s been so much more of a positive experience.

  8. 8
    Hannah July 29, 2015 at 2:44 am

    Thanks for sharing, and I agree ๐Ÿ™‚ I only signed up to Insta 2 years ago, main reason being I didn’t want to become addicted. It’s nice when people like your photos but I think that shouldn’t determine your happiness or self worth. Sometimes I think we humans get so focused on numbers we lose focus on life and the people around us. Comparison only steals your joy, and others opinions of you shouldn’t affect your day ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. 9
    Kelly Krause July 29, 2015 at 5:08 am


  10. 10
    Claire Zinnecker July 29, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Love this post so much! Camille and I were just having this conversation last week. I deleted instagram off my phone so I wouldn’t be constantly going down the comparison black hole and it has been such a delightful week without it! xo

  11. 11
    Hannah N. July 29, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Such a great article! I was having these exact thoughts this morning. I just started an instagram account to document my food adventures and every time I put up a new picture, I find that my heart starts to pound and I immediately text my boyfriend and friends to see what they think. It’s funny because after seeking their approval of my pic this morning, I instantly sent a text saying “never mind I like it and that’s all that matters” and immediately felt better and less anxious. Someone will always have pictures that you envy, but as long as you like your own feed and it reflects who you are and the message you’re trying to portray, then the number shouldn’t matter. I’m so glad I found this article as it’s a great reminder for me that social media is meant to be fun and to just enjoy sharing my world with those who want to follow allow. Thanks for posting it! xo H

  12. 12
    Kim West July 29, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Argh, I love it and I hate it. Great post!

  13. 13
    Vanda July 30, 2015 at 3:33 am

    I had the Instagram-anxiety a while ago when I tried to follow the “create a perfect gallery” mantra. Everything had to be uniform and white. But I guess that the lack of spontaneity just took out all the fun from sharing these daily snippets.

  14. 14
    Michael rubino July 30, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    You couldn’t have said it any better! Instagram is such a competitive platform for people. Im definitely going to take this post into consideration! ๐Ÿ™‚ check out my newly launched blog!

  15. 15
    Eryn July 30, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    I try to keep my followers on IG really small. I want a feeling like it is a safe place to post any pics I want. I don’t want to have to worry that I’m bugging people with too many kid pics or something like that. Unlike FB, where you know if you post a picture everyone you have ever met will see it. Haha! Does that make sense? Great article, JS!

  16. 16
    Molly Kendrick July 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    I love your authenticity, Jenn. You are a gem.

  17. 17
    shalevenson August 2, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Great post! I think my Instagram-xiety comes from feeling like I am missing out when I don’t check my feed. It’s pretty ridiculous that one of the first things I do when I wake up is check my Insta account!