We’ve all heard the long spiels about how Instagram is a life of false validations. We’ve seen the thinkpieces decrying it as toxic.
But we’re also not blind to the kind of bank that influencers make based on posting pictures alone.
Life does seem better if you’re doing it as an influencer, with their constant #cafehopping and flawless skin. And having someone around all the time snapping fine photos of you does wonders for your ego too.
Once you get over the shame of selling your soul to the Instagram overlords, what’s wrong with showing your followers a #goals life full of great wardrobe and long legs?
Heck, we all have Instagram accounts, and we post pictures on them too. Psh, we thought. If they can do it, how hard can it be?
So we tried it for ourselves.
The formula seemed simple. Post a picture, find a pseudo-profound quote that’s barely related to it, and slap 4,895,489 #hashtags into the caption.
Yeah fine, that’s easy enough.
We had Google on our side to provide the generic quotes that we needed, and copying hashtags from other influencers was also fairly straightforward.
It was getting that picture perfect pose that took a bit more effort. So we dove head-first into the depths of #influencer and #blessed to discover the pose formulas as listed:
Notable photoshoot locations included parking lots, balconies, next to large pipes, stairs, the grassy parking area behind our office buildings and on our last day, a hipster café (Thanks, Happ Café!).
We had a strategy for social media too. We’d leave comments, likes and reactions to each other’s posts to help boost our posts up on the Facebook newsfeed and increase visibility.
And so we began, with bright eyes and hopeful hearts.
It was supposed to just be a day for test shots, but since our editor decided that she looked fly that day, up on Instagram the pictures went.
We walked down the stairs of our office to the carpark, a prime spot for OOTDs, or so we believed.
“Adjust your leg this (or that) way,” you would hear us say for every picture. “It makes your leg look really long.”
On day-1, we were still able to hide behind this veneer of irony and “I’m doing this for work,” but once the pictures were up, we kept picking up our phones to watch that ‘like’ counter rise.
The 5 million hashtags really do bring in the likes on Instagram; approximately double of what we usually got.
But the highest form of validation came from friends who commented on all of the pictures, even ones who did not usually even interact with us on social media.
By the time this day came, we were already committed to the cause. As budding young influencers, an easy way to gain likes and validation is to post pictures of yourself being totes besties with other influencers so that we essentially become influencers for each other.
When the time came, we got another beleaguered colleague to photograph us laughing demurely at nothing.
Posing for a long-legged picture is easy, but the perfect fake casual BFF vibes took us almost 2 hours just to get 4 #squadgoals pictures.
But true to prediction, the ‘likes’ counter was high. Most of the Instagram ‘likes’ came from strangers (probably through hashtags), while most of the Facebook ‘likes’ still came from our pre-existing friends.
Becoming a sudden overnight influencer is a great way to find out who are the people who have been secretly keeping tabs on you. We were getting messages and comments from friends we’d haven’t spoken to in ages.
They say that if you wear a mask long enough, it becomes your face. Incidentally, I discovered this quote while I was scrolling though the ‘Deep Quotes’ tag on Tumblr to caption my photo.
By day 3, we were already planning our future outfits for the upcoming looks. The poses started coming to us easier too. Some of us were even practicing poses at home in front of mirrors to get them right.
By Day 3, I felt myself become one of them. And I liked it.
Were we getting in too deep?
It was sure hard to care about, what with all of the brand spanking new followers we were getting.
Instagram is raking up the ‘likes’ much faster now thanks to the effects of the hashtags but by day 4, Facebook ‘likes’ have slowed down. Perhaps by then, our friends have stopped and thought “Wait, so they’re being serious about this?”
We fell into a little bit of a chicken and egg situation; to get the likes for such pretty yet pointless poses, we needed to have the kind of following who wanted and enjoyed that type of content.
But before we could even get to that point in our Professional Influencer career, existing friends will start questioning what we’re doing once the novelty has passed.
Would this have been easier if we were the types of people who would have done these anyway? Perhaps.
But by now, some of our friends and readers (by the way, don’t forget to follow our Facebook page! xoxo) were already starting to wonder if we were having a slow news week.
We already had a taste of validation in the first 3 days, and now we had to rely on the kindness of strangers to get it.
The Instagram crowd really likes dresses.
If we were going to have successful and prolific lives on Instagram, we needed to up our dressing game. A tough mission because most of us come to work in rather shabby clothes.
But by day 5, we were getting shots down in just 3–4 pictures.
Maybe it’s also because we don’t have the professional Instagrammer’s eye, so by the 5th shot we’d be shouting “Yes! Perfect! Stay right there! Perfect! YES!”
It really isn’t what it sounds like.
We now have the highest respect for people who influence on a day-to-day basis because it takes up a lot of dedication to keep this going. We had one day left, and we were done.
Sure, influencers have the skills to look so put-together even in ripped jeans and flip flops. But we are not at level 983,573, yet.
It actually takes up a lot of discipline to maintain looking #fly as hell. One of us even put off having lunch so that her tummy wouldn’t look bloated in the picture.
We tried another #squadgoals picture, but this time in pairs or trios to give it a little variety.
Now that we’re more hyper aware that “followers” are watching, we started feeling more sensitive about the way we look.
How small is our waist? How long are our legs? Is our jawline as sharp as it could be? Should we be gazing at the left or right to get our best angle?
I was pretty bummed that we never got around to posting any fitness shots, but we were determined to get at least one more element of influencing down. We headed to a perfectly lit café for the final shots.
Faced with the unfamiliar prospect of posing somewhere that wasn’t near our office, we took a little longer to get the shots in but they were worth it.
We even went the extra mile and put a full face of make-up on (something that our managing editor was extremely reluctant about for the first 6 days).
What Did We Learn
All said and done, we were still glad that it was over, mostly just so that we could come back to work the next day in baggy t-shirts and lazy shorts (viva no office dress code).
Life as a professional Instagrammer, as we discovered, isn’t as easy as it seems. Anything that you dedicate your time to in life is never as easy as the bright-eyed Instagrammers make it look.
Our likes didn’t rack up as high as we probably hoped, and it was a strain to dress well and look good just for the photos.
It sure gave us a newfound respect for people who do it as a job.
Other than that, Instagrammers take time and effort to build and market themselves as a brand—something that we couldn’t fully invest in, for just 7 days.
Personally, while it was fun while it lasted I can’t possibly cope with the pressure of posting pictures that depict life as always meaningful and perfectly framed.
I’d rather have my social media back, thank you very much. And I’ll be happy to set it back to private once this is over.
If you want to see our posts in the wild, find us on the #VPCuba hashtag (and don’t forget to like and follow!)