Why do I feel like I am in High School again?
I am one of the fortunate ones that went to high school in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I had an N’SYNC obsession, baggy jeans, and the worst haircut ever known to humanity. My style and music tastes weren’t unique for the 90’s but my experience in high school probably was. My graduating class only had 7 students … that’s right … 6 girls and 1 boy. I can honestly say that there weren’t as many ‘clicks’ or ‘popular kids’ groups as most bigger schools, but there were definitely moments of mortification and feeling like I didn’t quite fit in. Fast forward 20 years later (wow that was weird to write down…) and all of a sudden I am finding myself in a high school with millions and millions of students...Instagram High.
When you stop and think about it, Instagram is so similar to a high school. You have your Freshmen, those that have just barely joined or maybe those that joined a while ago but have less than 500 followers (that would be me). Then you have the Sophomores, those that have been doing it for awhile and have managed to build a following of 1k to 10k. They have enough experience to know a thing or two about attracting followers and they are starting to make themselves known to the greater population. Next, it's the Juniors, these are people that have reached influencer status. They have at least 10K followers and have access to the coveted swipe up feature. Last but not least we have the Seniors. These are people that have hundreds of thousands of followers and their influence on what’s happening in the Instagram world has no bounds.
I just want to make clear that I am not trying to paint Instagram as something negative. If you are like me, thinking of High School can bring on negative feelings, for whatever reason, but Instagram High doesn’t need to illicit the same feelings. It is a big part of our society and is actually needed for many people to make a living, but our experience on Instagram does not - nor should it - be a negative one. The good news is that you are not in High School. YOU have the power to make your account on Instagram what you want. There are no deadlines, tests, or teachers grading you on your performance. There are bullies, mean girls, and trolls - but there are also supporters, family, friends, and even strangers that will leave a kind word here and there. To help you create a positive experience at Instagram High I am going to share with you a few things I have learned.
The first and only rule of Instagram High is that YOU are responsible for your own experience. You are 100% in control of the curriculum you consume and the curriculum that you post. If a certain account doesn’t bring value to your life - don’t follow them. If what you are about to post doesn’t bring value to others - don’t post it. You create your own community on Instagram and the accounts you follow should never make you feel like crap. It is so easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that the more popular you are, (having thousands of followers) the happier or more successful you will feel. That is the biggest lie we tell ourselves.
That brings me to my second tip, you don’t need thousands of followers to be successful. If you have a product that you are trying to sell or a message you are trying to convey to the masses, do NOT get trapped into ‘get rich quick’ schemes of building a following. There are companies out there that if you pay them they will get you followers. DON’T do it!! The more organic you can build your following the more successful you will be. You will be way better off with 200 organic followers than 10K of bought followers. (the swipe up feature just isn’t worth it)
Last but not least and probably the most important tip I can give you is - STOP comparing yourself to those that have been on Instagram for years and have done the work they needed to get to Senior status. Yes - there are a select few that, for whatever reason, had overnight success and got thousands of followers because of a single post - YEAH for them!! But if you really pay attention to those accounts, you will see that only the ones that have built a strong organic following in the beginning and have spent months to years consistently showing up for their followers, will last longer than the ‘15 minutes of fame’. A good example of that is Abi Ayres. (@abiayres) You may know her for her Carol for President story that went viral and gained her tens of thousands of followers. What you may not know is that she was on Instagram for years prior to that, working her tail off to get the followers she already had. So when her moment came she was ready for it. If you want your moment to come ASAP without doing any of the work to build a strong foundation - chances are it will come and go, and you won’t be any better off because of it. You will have thousands of followers all of a sudden and you won’t know how to interact with them or how to add value to their lives so they will end up unfollowing you just as fast.
I really hope that these three tips will help you navigate Instagram High a little better and eliminate any stress that you have been experiencing because of it. Do not get wrapped up in the high school mentality of Instagram. Make Instagram work for you and your lifestyle and do not change who you are to fit in. If you don’t know what will happen if you do try to change who you are just watch Mean Girls with Lindsay Lohan - it doesn’t end well...