The Awful Idea That Could Change Instagram for the Better, Forever.
I’ve been wondering what would happen if Instagram went nuclear with its next update.
Nuclear, and then some.
Parents and children, friends and complete strangers weeping without end, unprecedented stockpiling hysteria at Costco, phone calls across the planet dropping constantly, hiding in basements, all covered by the prayers and pleading of humankind that the world would one day go back to the way it used to be.
Or at least that’s what it would feel like.
What kind of move by Instagram could possibly cause hundreds of millions of people to lose their minds?
The very same kind of update that millions might love.
And the same update that at least a handful of people would never even notice:
Making it absolutely, completely, unwaveringly, is-this-for-real? impossible to see the number of someone’s Followers.
Don’t overthink it. Here’s what I mean:
Yes, it’s that simple.
Yes, this would be a big deal.
And yes, I think it matters.
Not because Instagram sucks, because it doesn’t.
Not that big numbers are bad, because they aren’t.
Instead, how and why we use Instagram is the problem. (Sometimes.)
I won’t act like I’ve exhausted every pro and con of hiding Follower numbers on Instagram, but bear with me for a minute.
What could happen? How would it specifically affect you? Or would it affect you at all?
That’s really what I’m asking, because that’s the more important question.
Have you thought about how or why you use Instagram (or Facebook, or Snapchat, or Twitter, or _________)? Go past the easy answers, like, “To share what I’m doing,” “To see what others are doing,” or, “To promote my stuff.”
What’s in it for you? What are you really hoping to get out of it?
If you opened Instagram one morning and it looked like this, what would you think?….
Would it affect how you use Instagram? Why? Why not?
For me, it would help me look at things more objectively and a lot deeper –– as in, Do I like this? Do I care about this? Why? versus, Should I like this? Or, What am I missing out on if I don’t follow them?
Or worse yet, Why do I feel an unspoken pressure to comment on this? No matter what, I better be witty because what if someone important sees this and I get internet famous? Does Tesla do sponsorships? What if Oprah reposts a picture of my lunch?
It would make me question my real motives, which would be both an awful and a great thing.
I’ve asked some of my friends why they use Instagram and online stuff in general, and the answers were completely different. Some said to find self-worth, some said to feel connected to others, or the hopes of endorsements or a paycheck, to make people laugh, Internet fame, to share info, to document their kid’s messes, to market themselves, to inspire others, to kill time….
But there’s one commonality: Instagram has become a tool to get something else.
I repeat: big numbers are not evil, and in a lot of ways they can show that there’s a good reason behind why an account has so many likes or people following. The movie Inside Out didn’t profit $500 million across the world in its first few months because it was a bad movie. A whole lot of people paid to see it because it was a great movie.
Adele isn’t a mediocre singer trying to round up fans. She’s a great singer, and that’s why she has a lot of fans.
Those are cases where big numbers of followers help show that something is valued for what it is.
But what about the great movies that are unknown? Or the phenomenal singers who dream of one day playing a show for more than 25 people?
If one of the primary ways we ascribe value to someone or something is by how many people know about them, we’re on an adventure in missing the point. Or flip it: Are we banking on feeling better about ourselves when we have ________ number of followers or likes on our last post?
That’s how numbers get in the way. Or rather, that’s how we let numbers get in the way.
So what’s the big deal about hiding Followers?
Because it could help us become a little more human online and offline.
If you’re anything like me, the first thing I do on an Instagram account that I randomly land on (excluding friends, people I’ve met, or people I genuinely look up to), is see how many followers they have, subconsciously put them on an imaginary and ambiguous scale of worth (i.e. How cool does this look? What’s in it for me?), and then I’ll scroll through their pictures…maybe.
The Instagram rabbit hole of hashtags and recommended posts is endless (and, come on — usually pretty entertaining), and the volume of stuff we see and read and hear is unending.
Every day we have to make a lot of decisions, really quickly, and we’ve had to figure out how to not waste our time.
That’s why looking at numbers has become one of the most efficient ways to initially judge something’s (perceived) worth, while making the most of our time and our phone’s battery. It works sometimes, but not always. But either way, if that’s our default way of moving through real life, something’s short circuited along the way.
I’ve noticed that how we (me included) weigh someone’s worth online is the same way we can function in real life, and that should make us nervous. Or at least make us slow down.
The internet gives us the luxury of pseudo-harmless-just-for-fun-I-wonder-what-they’re-up-to stalking (you know what I mean). But if we treated a stranger on the street the same way we treat a stranger’s recommended post, we probably wouldn’t like how quickly we’d dismiss that stranger on the street…or maybe even how fast we’d want to become his or her best friend.
I’m not a number-hater, and I typically side on recognizing the positive impact that big numbers can have. But numbers (or clothes, or looks, or likes, or the impressiveness of @ mentions) aren’t everything, and they affect us more than we might realize.
If Human Mode aka Hide # of Followers was an option on Instagram, would you use it?
Would you notice that some accounts started to look unbelievably similar?
Would you grow more aware of the importance of something’s substance instead of its face-value impressiveness?
Would your online and offline lives start to merge into one life?
And would that be for the better?