I started to use Instagram again, prompted by the entry of my daughter into my life.
Before becoming active on IG this time, I had left the platform for a year and a half because I didn’t like the person I was becoming as I used it.
Whenever I posted, I pegged too much of my self-worth to the engagement I received on them. When I wasn’t posting, I scrolled the feed and watched people’s Stories and I noticed that I was subconsciously belittling myself. Luckily I’m mature enough to recognise these patterns and trigger the kill-switch of leaving the platform indefinitely.
But for the last 3 weeks, I’ve used my IG account (it’s currently set to public) as a place to visually document my life and it has gone better than expected. I wanted to reflect on that.
Looking back, made simple
While I disliked the side effects of being active on IG, I loved the fact that I could revisit my memories anytime on any device. I’ve also on several occasions shared links to specific posts with friends to remind them of our shared memories. I have to admit, I visit my profile a lot because I have a terrible memory and my IG profile serves as a digital manifestation of a memory lane, albeit a selective one.
And now, with Charlotte in our lives, I have so much more to look back on. Because children grow up extremely fast (way faster than I had realised before I had one), there’s much to document and look back on to remember.
You might be thinking: why not document these as blog posts? My answer is twofold: 1) my friends are on that platform and spend time (unfortunately, an inordinate amount of it) on it; 2) it’s quite hard to replicate the visual design of IG on a blog.
Yes, I don’t own my data on IG - I’m painfully aware of that. But I choose to think of the bright side: I still own the original files of everything I upload (in my Google Photos account and my Synology storage device). And, as a software developer, if I hear that something might jeopardise the longevity of IG, I’ll probably write a script to download all my posts so I can preserve the post format and my writing.
I like forcing functions - that is, things that force you to do something before you can achieve what you set out to do. For example, you cannot start a car if the gear is engaged.
In my case, I find that having to upload daily to IG also forces me to reflect daily. The very act of sifting through a day’s pictures on my phone will force me to reflect on the day. On top of this, as someone who prefers writing over talking or photographing or videoing, I naturally tend towards words, and what are words if not for thinking (i.e. reflecting)?
Practising laying hooks
We live in a noisy world. What I realised is that because it is a noisy world, I need a reliable technique of broadcasting signals that cut through the noise to reach people online. This is useful for, say, building an audience for a business, but it is also useful for getting the attention of the people whose attention you’ve already captured before. Even inner circles have inner circles!
I find IG a perfect battleground for testing these techniques that I’m making up as I go. My mission with this who-knows-how-long project is simple: upload a post every single day to document that day. While I’m at it, I might as well try and make the post stand out so that it compels people who follow me to consider putting their thumb on their screen to stop the scroll and read. I might as well learn something since I’m already putting in the effort.
Dilbert creator Scott Adams writes well, and he has this to say: “Your first sentence needs to grab the reader.”
Practising visual design
The previous point is not just about writing. Since IG is primarily a visual medium, creating an effective hook for someone to pause and do a double-take involves visual design.
You know how some IG profiles make impeccable use of the profile grid and as a result, exude a particular feeling when you view them? Here’s a Pinterest collection of them. That’s one creative way of practising visual design that will get attention.
So I’m trying to learn this, too. I’ve so far learned a few tricks when using Canva to edit each post’s cover image, like using frames and various typefaces. There’s a lot to learn.
Showing up daily
Finally, this project is also an exercise in showing up. I think of Austin Kleon:
Focus on days.
The day is the only unit of time that I can really get my head around. Seasons change, weeks are completely human-made, but the day has a rhythm. The sun goes up; the sun goes down. I can handle that.
(That’s from the book Show Your Work. It’s a good read. Find my partial notes here.)
I think there is tremendous value in proving to yourself that you’re capable of showing up again and again, regardless of the weather, external or internal. For example, I’ve been writing and publishing a post on this blog for the last year and a half every single week, and at any time when I feel like I’m not very capable or talented, I know that I’m at least capable of that.