Updated: Mar 2
“If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.”
Instagram is a ‘free’ social platform, but have you ever considered to what extent (and at whose expense) it really is “free?”
Instagram is a business, therefore, they have to make money, and even being free for us to utilize as a social platform, they make money through users like you and I.
How do they do this you ask?
Simply put, through advertising.
And the more advertising that they can filter to your feed (+ the actionable steps you take after viewing the ad) the more money that they make off of you. Therefore, in order for them to optimize their monetization they need users to spend more time on the platform.
The entire business model is to figure out how to get as much of your attention as they possibly can get. Or really, to figure out how much of your life are you willing yet, unknowingly, giving to them?
Do you often find yourself spending hours on end on Instagram? Putting in countless hours and time and effort only to be left feeling vacant and unsatisfied?
Yeah, you’re not alone.
It’s so easy to get lost in the world of Instagram and honestly that’s because the algorithm is literally set up this way. A team of designers has curated the algorithm in such a way that subconsciously you end up wanting to spend more and more time on the app.
It is set up so perfectly and intentionally so that you end up spending hours on end scrolling through an overload of content.
How is this, you ask?
Every single action that you make on any platform is carefully tracked, monitored, recorded, and measured. Every click. Every image and every video you look at. Even down to the millisecond of how long you spend looking at any piece of content.
The algorithm filters content based on your history on the app. This means that the more that you ‘like’ a certain piece of content or spend time watching videos/reels, the more that the algorithm will filter this type of content to your feed.
All of this data is being fed into systems and the more data that is collected the more that these systems learn about us and are able to make more efficient predictions about what type of content to filter to our feeds. The algorithm is so powerful that it can correctly predict what emotions trigger you and then will filter this type of content to you to trigger those emotions.
You might not have much control on Instagram (which is why we feel there is no need to waste your energy being stressed over the algorithm) however, one of the things that you can control is the content that you see on your own feed and Explore page. It's easy, continue to 'like' a certain type of content and you will slowly see your feed be filtered and overloaded with said content.
We’re constantly faced with content overload. And who can handle all of this or even retain half of it?
And it makes sense, as a content creator, there is a demand to produce content.
Every. Single. Day.
We’re told that we need to be consistent and show up and not only produce content, but to produce good, no, great content in order “to beat the algorithm.”
Is this even possible? No. Because there is no way to “beat the algorithm.”
As we previously stated, the algorithm is very powerful. And it has three goals in mind: an engagement goal, a growth goal, and an advertising goal.
Each of these are powered by algorithms and the main goal is to figure out what to show you to keep these goals going up (which means what to show you to keep you showing up and spending more time on the platform).
The algorithm is not set up for us to live a normal social life. Think about it, it’s not normal to have to spend countless hours engaging, commenting and liking hundreds of other profiles in order to receive only a small percentage of engagement in return.
However, in order to organically grow your account on the gram you absolutely have to spend time engaging. Engagement is one of the most important factors in your strategy when it comes to how to grow your account. It is also one of the most time consuming and mind numbing processes.
So, it takes us back to how the algorithm is set up, and in order for us to be successful then we need to receive high engagement on our feed.
Well, in order to receive high engagement on our own feed this means that we have to spend time engaging with other users’ feeds. And the more time you spend on the platform and engage with new people, the more that the algorithm will boost your content to more people which can mean new eyes on your content which then means you increase the chance of organic growth.
BUT it makes perfect sense. Instagram is a money making conglomerate and they are a business just like you and I, which means that they too need to make money.
So, in order to grow organically, you have to spend time engaging which means spending more and more time on the app commenting and liking things that you are genuinely interested in or drawn to, which then means the algorithm continues to filter this type of content to your feed and you get stuck in a never-ending cycle.
So, how do you break this cycle?
First and foremost, become aware of it.
Become aware of the fact that we are all stuck in this vicious cycle where we curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we feel rewarded by any short term signals, including, ‘hearts’ and 'likes' and then we associate that with value which we then associate with truth and some sense of validation, when in reality it’s all a facade. It’s a screen that we have been programmed to become addicted to and then after spending hours and hours on the platform, we are left feeling more vacant, more empty, and more invalidated than ever before.
More than ever do we need to address the lack of awareness between the correlation of social media and mental health.
We are currently training a whole generation of people that when you feel uncomfortable or uncertain or afraid that you have a digital compass that you can turn to for support and this is simply just not true to today's reality.
More than ever are children and society as a whole more anxious, fragile and depressed. Since 2011, the rate of young girls being sent to the emergency room due to self-inflicted pain has increased dramatically to 62% in girls between the ages of 15-19 and 189% in girls between the ages of 10-14. This is the same pattern in suicide rates. Suicide rates have increased by 70% in girls between the ages of 15-19 and 151% in girls between the ages of 10-14. (The Social Dilemma Documentary Film, 2020).
All patterns point to social media.
Secondly, decide to do something about it.
Remember that algorithms are literally opinions built into code. Essentially, we have allowed a team of approximately 40 white 30-something-year-old males who developed an algorithm in Silicon Valley set the standard of what we deem as beautiful or socially acceptable.
Be mindful of the platform. Become aware of how much time you are spending on the app, and be honest about what you are doing while you are on the app.
We’re serious when we say that you need to be 100000% intentional when it comes to being on any social platform.
Set your intentions and your goals before you click on that app each day, literally ask yourself, “what is it that I need to accomplish on this app today?”
To respond to comments
To answer DM’s
To post to your feed
To batch record reels
To add to your stories
Engage with other accounts
You need to be so intentional and so purposeful about everything you do while you’re on the app because before you know it, more than an hour has gone by and you’ve done nothing but mindlessly scroll (which is EXACTLY what they want you to do).
If you're interested in learning more tips and tricks on how to go about social media mindfully, efficiently and effectively -- feel free to schedule a call with us and we will be happy to help you strategize a plan!
- Hannah & Adriana 🍃