I had the same feeling 3 years ago. On Instagram.
In their official account, Instagram holds WHP (Weekend Hashtag Project). A series of designated themes with hashtags in which every user can submit on during the weekend. The Instagram’s Community Team will then look through the submissions and feature 9 of their most favorite photos to the official account.
Well, it is a chance to be recognized by wider audience of mobile photography community (and of course, more followers).
And since it is renewed every week, the WHP is not as exclusive as the LiveJournal communities or Creme that you were arguing with a guy in the response section (hi!). Instagram does have a place for “suggested users”, but the selection wasn’t held in disclosed time frame and hadn’t had any clear or specific requirement, so the WHP was my only chance.
I tried to participate every week when I had a chance. I worked hard for it. Maybe a little too hard. I went into places, I asked friends to model, I frisk the attic for photogenic objects, I bought flowers miles from home, I messed up with dad’s Parker ink. Not as a professional photographer, but an Instagram user, with an attempt to get more followers.
If the photo — or the thumbnail — was good enough to attract people who discovered the hashtag, some would like it or commented on it, some would followed me. But it was not what I aimed for. My goal was to be featured by the team. I always anticipated the early morning (in my timezone) they announce the featured photos. I couldn’t sleep and keep refreshing the feed. I imagined what it would be like to be featured; how my friends would react; how suggested users in my area would recognize me and might ask me to hang out with. I once even dreamed that I woke up and found I had been featured and flooded by thousands of notifications. Then I actually woke up. It never happened.
The Instagram itself had already been too big to discover each user. And I realized that I was too focused on making the photo look beautiful, but less for the creativity and originality of the idea (which might be the main qualification by the team). I finally came to acceptance and understanding that I should just take it easy, keep posting what I like, deliver the message that I really mean to within the photos.
Over time, with random digging and coincidental discovery, I befriended some notable, recognized users (even the suggested ones) within the service. I have built my own audience and even met some of them IRL. Less and less I feel the need to compete within the WHP, to compare myself with people who made it, or to see it as a way to gain fame — I need to stop here as it already sound too “be yourself”-ish.
Instagram’s Community Team is genius. They still stand with dignity. They keep their value and integrity while the service itself is now pretty much full with memes and musical.ly posts. And while it’s hard, maybe almost impossible to be one of their chosen pieces of artwork, it’s still interesting to see that they can discover hidden gems among hundreds of millions of users.
It is superficially the same process of “thorough selection”. What makes it different is the scheme. Some for even more exclusive entity, while others have the desire for more varied contents in the service. All of which is — as we know it — to generate new ideas.