6 Ways to Stupefy the IG Algorithm

So... that IG algorithm. Aka the invisibility cloak of Social HogsMedia, which randomly decides who should make noise/exist. Whereas the old system simply showed you posts in chronological order, the current system prioritises how quickly people engage, what time you post and what genre we *want* to see.... apparently the #instagods have been taking Occlumency lessons from the dead (RIP Snape) and can READ MINDS.

*Dear IG: when you try to assume what we like and when we like it , you make an ASS out of YOU and ME*

What was so wrong with the old days, when you simply trusted that we actually like all of the people that we followMy own feed includes crocheters, bloggers, bookstagrammers potterheads, hedgehogs, Kardashians and the entire cast of Dance Moms. I love a good Abbey Lee rant, but I also love the adventures of little Pokee and a few flatlays in between. But if I didn't want to see them, I wouldn't follow them!

*Even if your own 'following' list is slightly less random than my own, Pokee the Hedgehog is  guaranteed to make you smile in 99.9% of cases, the 0.1% being Dementors without a soul.*

We could really use more #instasmiles these days... or just a bit more INSTANT. Apparently people are even scheduling instagram stories now? Oh MY GODRIC, where does it end!? How did we get so caught up in this game of likes, calculations, followers, filters and comparisons? A game that, until not so long ago, I was playing too. I was stressing and second-guessing and, what's more, I know I'm not alone in this; how many "beat the algorithm" blog posts have been written in 2017? We place so much value on what other people will like and how we compare to them. What happened to just being?

So in the past month, I decided that enough was enough and I set myself a challenge: STUPEFY THE ALGORITHM and just BE YOU. I will leave you to decide if it worked...


I was inspired to write this post after sharing the IG photo below. Here's the backstory: I wanted to fulfil the blogging cliche and share a "shoes and leaves" shot. However, my boots were muddy and I attempted to use the "healing tool" on an editing app #instaready. After several attempts and giving those celebrity photoshop fails a run for their money, I *nearly* decided not to post. Nearly. An hour later, I shared my muddy boots and unearthed the real story. It was one of the most candid and spontaneous posts I've made, yet was also one of my most 'liked'! Instead of  spending half an hour on a one-sentence pun, I wrote a mini-essay in around 5 minutes and it was a real turning point.


*caution: my rambles are no longer exclusive to this blog*

#makersgetreal day 5: something you're afraid to share on IG, so here goes.... Muddy boots may not be very "instagram", but they tell a far more colourful story 🍁🌳 If my furry companion wants to frolic through the woods like Noel and Sandi, who am I to refuse her!? 🐢 Sometimes I wonder if people actually carry the wellies to that perfect "leafy spot" and change into them for the photo - or settle for cold coffee in the name of that perfect flatlay πŸ˜‚πŸπŸ€” I can joke about it now, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not vulnerable to the comparison trap. What's more, I've noticed a growing number of references to it on here/ twitter/blogs/magazines/coffee shops... and bus stops, as of this morning! In the past month, I've tried to challenge my own anxieties and #freeupmyinsta. I've posted more and used my captions as a "micro-blog"; a place to open up and be less afraid of... being. Just being me. Sometimes I've worried about over-sharing my thoughts, or over-promoting my etsy. I still worry that people will think my crochet/prints are rubbish and I am still vulnerable to the comparison trap. I'd certainly like to kick a pile of leaves over the IG algorithm! Nevertheless, overall I do think my anxiety has DECREASED. I have less space to fixate on tiny details; details that, in reality, NO ONE ELSE will care about. I'm spending less time editing and googling punspiration (for example, that one was all me πŸ™ˆ) Less time doing/chasing perfection and more time being. Just being. So note to self: Muddy boots are more colourful than the shiniest of hunter wellies. Free Elves make for #happyselves and thats OK! I can dislike pumpkin spiced lattes and still be a socially-acceptable human. The best books have worn pages and the best stories lie beyond the cover. #honestyhour: if your life was a visual story, what would it TRULY look like? πŸŒπŸ“ΈπŸ“š
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Last month I joined in with the #MakersGetReal challenge started by Lindsay at Bundle Handmade. I'll admit that I didn't do every day and may go back to it at some point, but it helped me in so many ways:

1. Engaging with other Makers: Since opening my Etsy Store, around 50% of my photos are craft-related. Consequently, I've been wanting to engage more with the makers community and this hashtag was the perfect answer! I've found so many wonderful accounts and love seeing what others create.

2. Removing the Filter: I mentioned this earlier, but I really can't advocate it enough: GET REAL! The relationship between Instagram and Mental Health has been discussed a lot this year and I do think people are getting more clued up to the reality... INSTAGRAM ISN'T REALITY. I loved sharing my behind the scenes moments and it turned out to be great exposure therapy for anxiety! Would you take part in one? 


Finally jumping on the bandwagon for #makersgetreal, as I've absolutely loved scrolling through the hashtag and engaging more with the #creativeminds on IG πŸ”–πŸŽ¨ #whereistheyarnemoji πŸ™‰ I hope you can let me off the hook for skipping the first two days! Incidentally, the anxiety I feel for this is just one example of my biggest "daily challenge" (day 2): perfectionism. So perhaps this is a good "sew what" to anxiety 😳 My #behindthescenes is from last week, when I took Dobby and Olympus Penny to Coffee 1 for an Etsy photoshoot (#backdropgoals). I picked up Penny, ready to snap away... before realising that I'd left the battery at home on charge! πŸ™‰ In the world of social media, this would stay firmly #behindthefilter, but I decided to capture the moment on my phone and remind myself that life isn't perfect! From tangled wool and fluff-covered tights, to crochet callouses and the dozen shots I took before this one, the makers' life is #abeautifulmess and that's okay. ALWAYS!
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     ENGAGEMENT OVER LIKES    

When it comes to writing captions, I now swear by the saying: "ask and you shall receive". I used to spend ages coming up with a snappy pun to conclude my captions, whereas now I like to end with a question. - and not simply to'get likes'! I ask questions I genuinely want to hear the answers too, such as book recommendations or ideas for self-care I've noticed that engagement on my posts has increased and, most importantly, it's real engagementOne meaningful response means more to me than a dozen "this is so cool!" comments or 100 likes. What means more to you?
   


The high street can keep their pumpkin spiced lattes, I've found a new love... a sprinkle of cinnamon! It adds the perfect sweetness to my morning @pactcoffee and is autumn in a nutshell 🍁☕️ When I'm at home in the mornings, a frothy cappuccino is one of my little acts of self-care. It takes a bit more effort than just boiling the kettle for tea/instant coffee. It's something I started doing when I was discharged from IP and, 10 months later, it's still part of my daily routine! Other things include keeping my prescription of @simplethingsmag and taking breaks from essays/blogging to do something outside a screen! On that note, resolution to read before bed has fallen a bit by the wayside... I started "Good Me, Bad Me" last week and had really high hopes, but it's taking longer to get into than expected! What are your acts of self-care/what would you like them to be?
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     FREEING THE ELF YOURSELF)       


I've talked 'getting real', but that doesn't always mean sharing the imperfections. Sometimes it's just SHARING. I like the idea of IG being a little time capsule, capturing the moments that make me smile. It's my version  'highlight reel', without the #beachbodyready bikini photos and cold flat white - is that flatlay really worth it? 

Right now, nothing makes me happier than my dream of  becoming a Primary Teacher, so I want to talk more about it. If others want to hear, that's amazing. If they don't, that's okay too and perhaps my account isn't for them. You can't be all things to all people - unless you're St. David Attenborough - but you can be you. The waving Elf below is more 'Sophie' than a MAC Lipstick could ever be. I'm more Lovegood than Kardashian and I'm not ashamed of that! I've spent too much of my life worrying what others think; it's time to free the elf and free myself


Dobby was saying #HelloBrookes this morning, as I headed off to my first Primary PGCE Open Day! It felt a little surreal to be back among the welcome shirts and prospectuses, 5 years on from our last encounter. Nevertheless, as soon as the course leader spoke I felt at home. The course is undoubtedly intense (the time table makes an Undergraduate Literature degree look like a holiday!) and this is NOT a career for the faint-hearted. As the teacher said, if you're doing it for the long holidays or to receive Christmas presents from the kids, you need to sort out your priorities (Ron called it first) I may have been quite whimsical in my recent video, yet I'm not naive to the reality of this career. I currently volunteer at a school where many children face unique challenges. It is a school that places huge emphasis on wellbeing and inclusivity, because the catchment area is so diverse. Far from being fazed by this, I embrace it. It is a challenge for me to adapt and recognise the needs of each child, but it is all the more rewarding for it. I can see the true benefit of me being there and witness breakthroughs at every turn. Every jobs has its challenges, so for me it is looking at the rewards. While teaching may not be the goldmine of other careers, the daily milestones of a child are invaluable. If you don't believe me, look into the eyes of a 5-year-old when she reads the word "beautiful" and amazes herself. It amazed me... and it was truly beautiful to see #learningforlife
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     NOT DELETING PHOTOS     

Of all the habits I had to stupefy, deleting photos was the trickiest. Only a month ago, it reached the point where every other photo I published would mysteriously disappear from my grid a week later. I was trying to play "the algorithm game" and, looking back, perfectionism completely took over. I'd have a dozen edits of one photo and stress over which to use. Photos had to 'balance' with the one next to/above/below it, or it would be deleted. People reading this may either relate, or think I'm crazy. Trust me, I'm going with the latter! 

However, I feel genuine pride in saying I DID IT. October was the month of not deleting and my "exposure therapy" worked. I find that I fixate less on the little things and have more time for the things that MATTER; namely discovering new accounts, engaging with old favourites and having a TRUE account of my own life. Perhaps I did get carried away with Dobby photos lost followers as a result, but that is what I wanted to post! Plus if someone doesn't have time for House Elves, they're an Umbridge and I don't have time for them


       TAKING A BREAK          

Can we appreciate the irony that I can't actually go on Instagram right now, due to the lack of iPhone general sanity? Seriously though, it's been 4 days since I lost my Apple baby and it's starting to take its toll - my morning alarm is NATURAL LIGHT and I've gained a newfound appreciation for the Metro newspaper (more on my phoneless days to come). For those savvy people who use scheduling apps, IG would continue come rain or shine; for me, however, in my algorithmically-challenged world, we've been on a ROSS GELLAR BREAK....

...and it was needed! For starters, it's proven that THE WORLD WILL NOT END IF YOU TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA. If Ross and Rachel can survive it, we can too. Yet I think the biggest silver has been perspective. I've had time to"sort out my [IG] priorities". I don't miss the  algorithm, the editing, the second-guessing, the #ads or the 'likes' I miss checking up on Pokee, exploring the #ToysForSyrianRefugees tag and engaging with Potterhead Bookstagrammers! I miss capturing and sharing the moments that make me smile; not stressing about what the algorithm wants to see. So when I do return, I'm going to prioritise ME. 

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There may be people who clicked on this post and hoped for a "magical answer". Perhaps some of them stopped reading long before now, because they wanted a way to gain likes and I wanted to ramble about Harry Potter and Hedgehogs (seriously though guys, Mr. Pokee has a face like sunshine!

On the other hand, I do wonder if there is a 3rd group: the people who followed the *clickbait* and , like me, stressed about the algorithm. People who, perhaps, read this and found an answer they weren't looking for; a new way of looking at things. 

For what it's worth, I still have my days where I want to delete a photo/feel judged by what I share. However, those days are fewer and I feel altogether happier since making these changes. Life is about so more more than gaining likes/followers and, as cliche as it may sound, you can gain so much more by simply BEING YOURSELF

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