As many of you know, I was lucky enough to be featured by Instagram as part of the #WHPstripes Weekend Hashtag Project. I wouldn’t be where I am on Instagram today without it. It definitely feels amazing to see so many lovely people congratulating you on being featured and watching your followers go up by the minute, but there certainly are some downsides.
If you not clear what the Weekend Hashtag Project is I suggest you take a look at the Instagram blog but, in essence, every Friday Instagram give a prompt word and you can submit work related to that prompt. If you want advice on how to be featured on the Weekend Hashtag Project, take a look at this brilliant article by All that is She
So let me tell you a story.
On the morning of 19th December 2017, I woke up randomly at 6:30am (as I often do) and checked Instagram. This was when I noticed that my followers had gone up from 7,500ish to nearly 9,000. In my half asleep state, I was extremely confused. What had happened? Then I remembered that I entered Instagram’s weekly hashtag project with this photo:
But surely, it couldn’t have been featured, could it? But it had. I was staring at Instagram’s page and MY photo was on it! Amazing! Out of curiosity, I began to scroll through the comments, and a lot of them were… Less than kind. Many people were calling Instagram to take the photo down, saying that it was offensive to their culture to put feet on books. Accounts had taken their time to comment on the photo on my own profile saying I need to remove the photo, calling me uncultured and rude. Others took to direct messaging me to vent their anger. I was even shouted out in a few stories along with some rather foul language. To top it all off, I even received a lengthy email explaining why ‘stepping on books’ was offensive and that I should be travelling to become more cultured, despite the fact I am a broke twenty-year-old student.
I was completely devastated. I had never received negative comments about my photos before, let alone ones saying that it was offensive to their culture. Of course, it was never my intention at all to offend anyone. How could I have ever known that it was offensive to step on books to people living on the other side of the world? My mum had to spend half of the day reassuring me that I had done nothing wrong, but it still affected me, so much so that I stopped looking at the comments on the photo altogether.
But as the morning turned to afternoon, my mood had started to pick up. I saw my followers reach, and then go past, 10K and I was receiving messages from my favourite accounts. Some were even assuring me that they had received negative comments by being featured also. It seemed that this could be part of the package.
I began to understand that I would never be able to please anyone, that there would always be some people who chose to be offended by anything and everything. At the end of the day, these were MY books that I had bought with MY OWN money. Therefore, I should be able to do whatever I want with them.
From then on, I deleted all of the negative comments on my photo and started focusing on the positive ones. I had gained 4,000 followers in 24 hours and numerous people messaging me to say that they loved my account. It then became so much easier to ignore all of the mean comments. They didn’t matter to me anymore, because of all the positivity that I had surrounded myself with.
One thing that you don’t realise about being featured on Instagram is the pressure that comes with it. In gaining so many followers, I also gained a great deal of pressure to put out amazing photos every day. This was an expectation that I wasn’t used to before. It really pushed me creatively. Which, I guess, can only be a good thing. But things certainly have become harder.
If there was one thing I learnt from the whole experience, its that I should never question what I do. Books are so much more to me than just to be read, they are my art form. Books are universal, and can be enjoyed in so many ways.