The Instagram Struggle is Real
How to be Authentic Online
There’s no social media platform I have more of a tortured relationship with than Instagram. My social media anxiety is real.
Facebook, I mostly ignore. I even installed a plug-in that totally eradicates my newsfeed, sharply reducing the platform’s dangerously addictive allure. Twitter, I’ve learned to mostly lurk and wait for bad news to hit.
Instagram’s not all bad, though! Instagram stories I love. Look at a poorly-lit picture of this thing I like! Easy! Hey, swipe up for a new story up on Style Girlfriend! Quick! Haha, watch as I Boomerang-twirl around in my outfit. Fun!
Instagram proper, though? Instagram is serious business. On Instagram, I worry about the grid’s aesthetic. About how big my hips look, or my forehead. If I’ve filtered a photo too much, or not enough.
I worry that by positioning this matcha latte next to this Moleskine notebook next to that succulent, I’m helping to perpetuate a culture that wants to be shielded from all but the prettiest parts of life. One that’s devoid of zits and laundry days and open Kind bars that crumble in your bag.
Instagram trafficks in a currency that’s not really real. It’s the bitcoin of social media. When in reality, the digital emperors wear no clothes…at least none that they actually pay for.
Because the thing is, I don’t want to make anyone feel like they’re not enough because of a picture I spent thirty minutes of my day taking and editing and captioning and hashtagging.
But I also don’t want to use the fifteenth take of that mirror selfie where my eye looks wonky when I could just take another and the next one might be better.
“So just get off Instagram, Megan,” you might say.
If it was just me, I swear to you I would. I’d be like a movie star or elder statesman who wants their private life private. George Clooney doesn’t have an Instagram. Kofi Annan doesn’t have an Instagram.
…Wait, scratch that. Kofi Annan totally has an Instagram, and he doesn’t even have 50,000 followers. Logan Paul has 16 million. What is wrong with the world?
But here’s the thing.
My Instagram isn’t even mine. It’s ours. It’s Style Girlfriend’s.
Being on Instagram is “important to my business” in a very real, bottom line-kind of way. I realize that I am a unique case in that I am a hybrid person-business. After all, I’m Style Girlfriend! It says so right there in the title.
That said, I do aspire to better separate myself from this thing I’ve created. Like Leandra Medine-Cohen has done with Man Repeller, or to a lesser extent, Bill Simmons and The Ringer. They’re people. Who started media companies. Well, blogs, really. And turned them into media companies (I’m still working on that last part).
Until I can afford to actually hire someone to take the SG Bizstagram off my hands, I can’t very well sunset the account and start up my own, separate handle where I post cute pictures of my niece or delicious sandwiches I’m about to eat.
That’s because, just like saying you “don’t play games” when it comes to relationships is actually a game in and of itself, opting out of Instagram is a business decision like any other. And when it comes to business, it’s not a good one.
Style Girlfriend could have the most engaged, passionate readership in the men’s lifestyle universe (ooh, the MLU? can we get that going?), and for what it’s worth, I’m confident it does, but when a brand decides who they want to work with, they’re checking out the numbers they can see. Not the site visits hidden in your Google Analytics, or the unquantifiable enthusiasm bursting out of your comments section. And these days, the first stop is usually Instagram.
What’s frustrating about that is we’re up against “influencers” (god, how I hate that term) who focus almost exclusively on feeding their Instagram.
I’m going to make an educated guess that you probably don’t follow that many men’s style Instagrammers—the kind who post pictures of their outfits while sporting blue steel faces multiple times a day. I’m not knocking the hustle, mind you; I just find that my female friends are more comfortable loading up their IG feed with that kind of style inspiration.
But they’re huge! Like, hundreds of thousands of followers-huge. Like, make three times their rent with one sponsored photo-huge.
In this way, SG comes in at a disadvantage to those who devote the bulk of their attention to creating photos specifically for the platform. They might still “blog,” but it’s Instagram that gets the most love (and the biggest budgets).
That’s not me, though. For one, Style Girlfriend’s not just a fashion blog. Our mission is to build better guys, to help you improve how you look, yes, but also how you act. That doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a neat pile of crowdsourced street style shots and artfully arranged product laydowns.
I like to write. I like to connect with you guys here. I like to help you learn how to be a good person who lives their life with intention and clarity and style (and in the process, figure it out for myself).
But guess what?
All my whining about how it’s not fair to be put in the same box as those doing very different work doesn’t matter. I can complain all day long about how Instagram isn’t a good use of my time, or worry over making myself the center of attention in a company I want to see grow way bigger than me, but the #content monster must be fed.
And ultimately, if growing our Instagram following means we draw more people here to help spread the word about what women want to see guys wearing, and how they want to experience men acting, then it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
And I have to believe that there’s a way to do it that doesn’t feel like I’m breaking down a culture of human connection, scroll by scroll, and tap by tap.
And so, I’m working on getting over the fact that Instagram feels so much like work because, guess what? It is work. This is my business, and if Instagram is a part of that, then I’m just going to have to play the game.
Hopefully along the way, I’ll find some equilibrium about it all and develop a rhythm and a unique point of view and interesting things to say—or I suppose, show—because until the next thing that comes along (FaceGram! SnapBook!!), I have to find some peace about it or I’m gonna go crazy.
WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM DO YOU STRESS OVER?