Why It’s Time to Be Breaking Up With Your Followers

This week started out a little crazed, no? I don’t know about you, but when I turned on my phone Monday morning, my Instagram feed was full of apocalyptic behavior. People were saying tearful goodbyes, making pleas to “stay together” and begging me to TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS. My thoughts: What is happening?! Is the ship going down?! Is Instagram going to evaporate into cyberspace?! Has Darth Facebook come to destroy The Empire!? Am I being forced to beg these poor souls to allow me to interrupt their day-to-day life every time I post about some pillows or tile or whatever??

The broad sweeping panic reached far and wide from brands and bloggers big and small. While time would reveal the hoopla was just a small spat between quarreling lovers, I had a strong reaction to the dust that had been kicked up. I felt empathy for small businesses. I felt fear for myself. I felt disgusted by some brands. The mixture of empathy, fear and disgust brought me back to my formative dating experiences when my person was everything and without them my world would collapse. The IG community was at the emotional level of a hormonal 16 year-old on Monday and it was ug-ly.

What did it reveal? The jury is in and it is clear: there’s some heavy co-dependent shit going down between our egos and Instagram. It isn’t complicated to understand. Who doesn’t like to be liked? Who doesn’t like to be given a space to speak freely with those willing to listen?! It is powerful stuff, and just like any potent high (be it from power, pleasure, or substance) is to be dealt with carefully.

The thing that becomes forgotten over time is that we are not entitled to our followers. We are not entitled to anyone’s likes, comments, or eyeballs. We are not entitled to their purchases. If it feels you are beholden to your following, then it’s probably time for you to break up with your followers for a while and think about you for a bit because all that worrying is exhausting. I know because I have had problems with it myself.

Sincerely, I write this all in good fun, but there’s some seriousness to it. Yes, Instagram is a huge part of Wit & Delight. It’s where our most engaged audience lives and we rely on the real-time feedback, not to mention the income needed to run this ship. Yes, I’m super upset with The Instagram Update. We want everyone who elects to follow us to have a chance to see what we post, because we think (a lot) about how to keep this place fresh and fun and exciting for both the followers and ourselves. BUT– there is a cap to how much content people can take in on a daily basis. It’s become clear that social media is here to stay and in order to handle all the shit that is hurdled our way in the form of chronological feeds, we– as consumers of content– have to find ways to edit. We need to edit to stay sane so we can be contributing members of society and raise good kids and stuff. So, that means consuming less of everything and more of what we need to know about. (This, is my long-winded way of saying no-no-no-no to notifications. Seriously, only your mom and kids reserve the right to interrupt your day to notify you of something that can most certainly wait.)

None of us know what these changes will actually look like. From what I understand, it could simply be reordering posts so we see more of what we want and still get access to all the stuff that is less relevant… similar to the Twitter update. Regardless of the outcome, let it not behoove us to prepare for the worst or mourn the end of an era. Why not think about what success looks like within the confines of what we can control? Here’s how I’m trying to proactively embrace with the new of coming changes to Instagram:

  • Reinvention: Every business must reinvent itself slowly and over time to stay relevant. What parts of your brand do people respond to most? What’s intangible and unique about what you offer? Is it your witty captions or your knack for repurposing memes? Now is the time to try new things and get a really solid handle on what truly resonates and adds value to your followers. From there, build your roadmap to new territories. Let yourself evolve because it’s necessary to survive– with or without the update.
  • Accountability: Be as good as you can be. What I love about algorithms is you are forced to think about what messages really matter to people. Being held accountable for exciting and engaging content not only keeps all of us sharp, the people consuming our products, pictures, and words will benefit. Everybody wins.

There’s a platform that stands between you and your audience, and keeping them is just as hard as finding them. So, consider this change (and all future snafus) a productive kick-in-the-butt from your proverbial therapist. They’re just coxing out what you already know: do good work and people will care about what you have to say. They’ll keep listening if you keep talking.

  • Thanks for saying this. It seemed like so many Instagrammers were in “fight back” mode, without actually knowing what they were fighting. So far, the impact on my feed feels positively as I’m seeing posts from accounts I’d forgotten about. What I definitely do not like is receiving the post notifications that I turned on at the request of some Instagrammers. I’ll be turning those off. I’m sorry, but the average Instagram post is not something I need to be redirected to immediately.

  • Love your perspective on this! I was so overwhelmed/annoyed with the Instagram community the other day with the notifications freak out, and the aftermath was people openly admitting that the notifications were incredibly annoying and distracting (as to be expected). I think the silver lining of the update are conversations like this one, to remind us there’s more to life than likes and followers and the importance of pushing ourselves to make good work and stay true to ourselves.

  • I needed to read this. I was definitely one of those guilty people that was fear stricken into posting a “turn on notifications” photo – which I quickly deleted after realizing the fear was irrational. You’re so right. I needed that moment to step back and cool it because jeez how desperate and gross is that to ask people to turn on notifications for Instagram?
    xoxo Kelsey
    http://www.blondesandbagels.com

  • My phone was blowing up this morning with several notifications, emails, and texts and it finally got so annoying that I turned it on silent. And then I started wondering how life was going for all those people who – in utter panic – turned Instagram notifications on for EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON they follow. Ugghh. I can only imagine what a nightmare that must be!

  • Kate, you nailed it! So refreshing to hear your thoughts on this. To your point, ultimately, there is a lot of clutter but people will continue to seek out what is important and relevant. However that may look. Thank you for being one that consistently is worth seeking out!

  • This sums up exactly how I felt seeing everyone’s “please turn on notifications” posts. No matter how much I like a brand, they’re not that important to me that I need to be notified when they post some lifestyle pic that can most certainly wait. I’ve already unfollowed many of the brands that encouraged me to do this because I feel that all they care about is getting likes and don’t really care about the actual user.

  • Really enjoyed this post. I chose not to say one word about the update to my followers. I feel unconcerned about myself personally, but I do feel it’s a real rip off for small businesses. It feels like this update is set up for big businesses to thrive, which is not what we need.

  • Thank you for injecting reason into this conversation. As a small business owner, no doubt, I am fearful that these changes will make it harder for me and my brand. However, I’ve decided that if I stay true to myself and my work by producing original persuasive content, success and followers will follow. Perhaps this change is an impetus for all of us to be even more thoughtful and curated with our posts.

  • Kate, I love everything about this. Who would ever want to be notified every time someone you follow on Instagram posts a new photo?! That sounds like a nightmare to me. In fact, I bet anyone who DOES turn on notifications ends up unfollowing a lot of people. Personally, I think that people will continue to seek out the good stuff (ie: I’ll still click over to your feed because I love seeing your stuff, even if it’s not in immediate real time).

  • I love this, I really do. I too did not understand what the big fuss was all about but it could be because I’m not running a business on Instagram and the level of threat really is minimal. This really got me thinking, have we turned on notifications for things that really matter in our lives instead of a bunch of people who seem to have the best life and a life that we aspire to have?

  • Great post! The one thing many people keep forgetting is it’s on us, the followers and fans, to interact with posts as well! Our likes and comments (and your replies back) show higher engagement and will thus keep you higher in our feed! Yes, on some level it was convenient to be able to remember how far to scroll back to see that cute cat pic…but now we should “like” it in the first place! More authentic engagement with the accounts we love will keep the worthy relevant. 🙂

  • Common sense prevails here it’s nice to see. I’m guilty of panicking when I heard the news this week about IG. It seems that just as I figure out one form of social media (ie. Facebook), it changes and I start again from square one. Practice make perfect? Geez, I sure hope so.

  • Well said, Kate! Like you, I was wondering why people were all tangled up in their underpants on Monday with all the posts requesting people followers to turn on notifications. Change happens (whether you want it or not); and instead of fighting it, we need to accept and adapt to it.

    As for me, I only follow about 25 people on Instagram and am not a regular poster. I also don’t check it on a daily basis, so I am not too worried about missing a post/moment. Plus, a true follower will know what’s going on and click on the profile to see what’s new.

  • This post perfectly captures the reality of what’s happening on Instagram right now, thank you for that. It was getting a little out of hand with people asking others to turn on notifications,which I can understand, but like you said we aren’t entitled to our followers. I hope Instagram can remain a place of sharing art + beauty rather than becoming another sales pitch, but only time will tell!

    Krystal | http://floradelsoul.com/

  • Thank you for voicing this is such a thoughtful matter. I completely agree that our lives are entirely too over-saturated with social media and that taking a step back and trimming things down is probably a really good thing for us all to do. Social media has always been constantly evolving and any changes that come from this IG update will only spur further growth and reinvention in the area.

  • Kate, I really enjoyed reading this, and could relate to it. As a small independent designer/brand I felt a spectrum of emotions as I contemplated whether to board the bandwagon of post-notification pleading on Monday. It was, indeed, kind of crazy. Kind of sad. But, admittedly, I couldn’t feel above it all.

    The whole thing has me re-committing to making real connections, even if Insta is where they start. I love using it to leave goofy comments, cheer on my friends, and get gushingly over-enthused about people/stuff I’m a fan of. But, it also made me think that those real connections that happen as a result of that authenticity/enthusiasm are pure gold. Once they’re taken offline, so-to-speak, they are not governed/at the mercy of a platform that’s owned by someone else.

    Anyway, thank you. I felt icky about Monday all week. This article made me feel a lot better. SC

  • Well said Kate. I didn’t even really open Instagram on Monday I was over the whole “turn on notification” posts. What was crazy to me is this was coming from people with 225K followers – come on now. I totally understand bloggers/brands with less than 1K followers – that I get. The whole thing is just a little ridiculous.

    XX-Myrna
    Mybeatboutique.blogspot.com

  • Couldn’t agree with you more, Monday was probably the “ugliest” Instagram day in history with just the same image posted again and again, and while there’s nothing wrong with sharing the same image, is the fact that the image was tied with a non-inspiring message, a message that didn’t foster good conversation, lovely interactions, just selflessness. And I, as a fellow blogger, don’t like the update at all, in fact I’m terrified because as a freelancer I rely on it a lot. But we have to step back and think that before being a business we are humans. I also felt the urge to share my thoughts and this is what I wrote on my Instagram account (I’d understand if you don’t have the time to read this super long comment!)
    Notifications and the whole Instagram madness….this is not just another post asking for your follow, you’ve heard it, you know what’s going on, you definitely don’t need another person giving you the whole update lesson. Here’s what I think: do I like the update? Hell no, why can’t I be the judge of what your “best” photo or share is? Why is someone curating what I want to see and read? I thought I had that choice when I decided who to follow and who not to. It’s just some kind of dictatorship in my humble opinion.

    Am I going to ask you to turn on the notifications? I’m personally not doing it for any account and it has nothing to do with my love for you all. I don’t want to be a slave of a notification, I want to scroll down my feed when I choose to do so and want to, and in all honesty I don’t even know how that whole notification thing works, is it going to consume my phone battery ?? ? Is it going to keep the chronological order for those I choose to turn on? Because then I’d have to do it for the 983 accounts I follow and who has the time for that? I can’t rush into something until I know what that means.

    I also think that this is an extension of my brand and as a business woman I don’t want my content to go wasted, I work hard, day and night, 24/7 non-stop, ask anyone who knows me. So I have some serious mixed feelings about this insanity.
    At the end of the day, step back for a a second and look how much time and effort we are all putting towards notifying people and asking for their follow, and making sure we are “chosen”, and then think about the real problems in the world, the people who are just getting really bad news today, the people with life threatening problems….. yeah let’s have some perspective and direct that time towards making someone smile today or doing something meaningful and selfless.

    Thanks for always providing me a good read, I’ve been following you from the beginning and everything you write always resonates with me! 🙂

  • this post cracked me up, but was also thoughtful and respectful of this tricky situation, so thank you!

    bottom line: create quality content and it will get noticed…the cream rises to the top 🙂

  • This post definitely sums up pretty much how i feel about Instagram this week. Re thinking and re enforcing your content in all social media is what makes people coming.

  • The perfect response, I couldn’t agree more.

    As I have such a small following I wasn’t so easily sucked into all the turmoil around Instagram this week but I don’t think anyone could have missed the outrage and panic.

    I think you’ve got the right perspective going. We have to remember that social media platforms are constantly changing and there is no guarantee in anything. I wouldn’t want anyone seeing my content simply because I forced it on them, we need to be offering something of value. It will be interesting to see how the new algorithm works, and if content is viewed more through quality interactions and genuine interest. Time will tell…

  • I’ll always come to your instagram page regardless of notifications! I love the world you create at *wit and delight always have (sorry I haven’t been so good at commenting, that’s going to change).

    I think notifications came somethings come at the wrong time throughout your day and make you not want to look at something. So whether or not they a positive attribution to IG, I’m not sure I agree.