Something very interesting happened the other day. There I was, idly browsing Instagram as per usual, when I stumble upon Grow2Gether’s post about their podcast featuring Alex Shailer: “Social media is what you make of it”.
“That’s funny”, I thought, “If it wasn’t for Instagram, I wouldn’t even be writing this article right now.”
When I talk about self-esteem, I don’t necessarily mean body positivity or anything related to physical appearance or wealth. Sure, those #goals are suitable for the bundle of inspiration I’m creating for myself—but hey, I’m a freelance writer. Beyond everything, all I really want is some motivation to get things done. And getting things done is what sends me to cloud nine, so I should focus on that.
Please, don’t get me wrong: I, too, used to despise Instagram. Before the number of likes was (finally) taken down, I used to be the one who deleted my cute selfie when it didn’t have a certain number of likes in a few days. In hindsight, I should’ve known I totally missed the point of it.
There’s one infamous reason why people tend to deactivate their social media accounts or delete the apps in times of crisis: they open them and BOOM! They’re bombarded by everything they don’t want to see—whether it’s an ex, a supermodel, a wealthy entrepreneur…anything that may result in envy if such people are somehow triggering to you. Nothing the unfollow button couldn’t solve in a heartbeat.
Truth is, Instagram is no bad guy. It’s been villainized by people who haven’t been using it for its real purpose, which is to “bring you closer to the people and things you love” in its own words.
Today, I thank Instagram immensely for lending me a hand and changing my life for the better. Here, let me walk you through how that can happen.
Instagram gets you in touch with people who matter
Not to sound antisocial, but I made more professional contacts through social media than I ever did in real life. First of all, hadn’t I created an account and put my job title and a relevant link on my bio, I wouldn’t have half of the contacts I have today.
I can easily say that Instagram has indirectly led me to the freelance writing job market. It was up to me to market myself as a writer, but the platform gave me interesting people to follow—people who were hiring, people who were looking for collaboration, people who could refer me to someone else…the list goes on. That’s teamwork at its finest, and it has worked wonders so far.
Despite being behind a screen most of the time, writers (commercial or not) know how darn challenging it is to put yourself and your work out there, especially when just starting out. It took me several deep breaths to get in touch with the people I work for today, but the bottom line is: I discovered them through Instagram, and that’s also how they discovered me. No face-to-face meetings (unless you consider Skype), no calls, and no e-mails—at least not until I had a job offer.
Constantly “cold DMing” people, if you will, gave me a confidence boost about my own communication skills. It worked, after all! It got me thinking “if I can do this well, what else can I do that I’m unaware of?”
It gives you access to valuable material and practice
From day one, I knew that I needed a solid knowledge base if I wanted to have writing as my job and if I wished to gain more confidence in my work. I needed a repertoire of work samples and quality portfolio material. I just didn’t know where to start.
That’s when I turned to Instagram’s writing community and searched for any hashtags related to the type of learning I was looking for. In short, it consisted in marketing for writers and guest blogging opportunities.
As you may have guessed, I was instantly presented with dozens of blogs, podcasts, and business accounts, some of which offered free e-books, weekly newsletters, that kind of thing. I kept repeating this same process until it became second nature, and I’ve already assembled a great number of pieces.
Also, I’ve applied for a guest spot through #guestbloggers, and here I am!
When you find exactly the accounts you’re looking for and find the resources helpful, remember to listen to their podcasts, read their blogs and their newsletters. Contribute when you can. Give feedback. Hearing every day from people who are in the business you’re after can add to both theoretical and practical knowledge. Collaborating will add to your repertoire.
Without learning, there’s no confidence. Without confidence, you can’t do great work. So get cracking and look those hashtags up!
It can downright inspire you—if you use it right
If social media contributes to your anxiety or makes you think terribly about yourself, it’s about time you evaluated who and what takes up your feed, and put the unfollow button to work. Thankfully, we’ve been saved by the “mute posts/stories” option to avoid hurting people who take things too personally.
Let’s see an example: because Kylie Jenner is so rich and hot, she’s not only followed by a lot of your friends, but she was also the first person that came to mind when I had to think of someone. That doesn’t mean I follow her, and that doesn’t mean I should.
“But Kylie Jenner is a role model to me!”
If you dig Kylie’s and other socialite’s lifestyle, then go for it! Trouble is, people often get mixed up between feeling inspired and comparing themselves to others. That’s why you need to figure out what lifts you up ( i.e. what makes you feel motivated to be a certain way or achieve a certain goal) instead of what drags you down (i.e. anything that makes you feel bad about yourself the second you look at it).
It’s a matter of self-discovery and balance. It’s a matter of “What do I like? Who do I like? What do I want to see?”. Try answering these questions genuinely in your head.
Instagram should be your personal moodboard. Again, let me use myself as an example:
I’m a writer who’s constantly looking for marketing knowledge and motivation to write, someone who loves her friends and family, is obsessed with coffee and cats, laughs herself silly at memes, and needs a gentle push towards the gym.
Therefore, my Insta feed includes lots of inspirational quotes, writing and marketing blogs, cat videos, meme pages, coffee recipes, workout videos and my loved one’s accounts. That’s about it, and it’s what keeps me inspired and excited to go about my day. Why don’t you try it for yourself?
Find out what’s important (not harmful!) to you, and restrict your moodboard to that.
Remember that this account is yours, not anyone else’s. Also, if you’re like me and can’t start a conversation at all, “I know you from Instagram!” is a great ice-breaker.