We live in a world where young people now grow up wanting to get more Instagram followers. There isn't a day that goes by when we don't check our social media. Wait. Who are we kidding, some days there isn't an hour that goes by when we aren't constantly responding to comments and messages, posting a picture, chatting on Stories or just regularly refreshing our feed. What is it about social media - Instagram in particular - that can give usually rational women anxiety and paranoia. With the recent change in the Instagram algorithm everyone has been receiving less love and how to grow your Instagram following authentically has become more important than ever before. The Instagram shadow ban and the changes in social media got us to thinking, do we even enjoy using social media anymore? Then we spotted a post by the gorgeous LJ last week and we realised we weren't the only ones to feel this way. LJ is a West London based personal trainer and fitness instructor and has a following of over 15,000 people on Instagram alone, we asked LJ to share her thoughts ...
There are a few things in life that I'd call a "necessary evil" - foam rolling, hill sprints, doing my tax return.... but a year or so ago I never thought I'd put Instagram in that same category. And yet over the past couple of months I've really been developing a love/hate relationship with social media sharing. I would always advise my clients to cut anything out of their life that causes negativity, so why don't I just delete the app from my phone and be done with it? Because as much as it pains me to say, I need it. As a self employed freelance trainer, instructor and blogger Instagram does actually open up conversations for me with potential clients, gyms to teach at and brands to work with. Not to mention a platform for sharing my message of hard work and determination when it comes to anyone's fitness journey. But when does sharing a healthy recipe or your top tips for lunging go for casual networking to generating feelings of insecurity?
I had to start thinking of all of these things recently after my Instagram account was hacked and I was locked out of it for a couple of days. I was of course worried about what someone may have access to, which in turn made me start to think about everything I have shared with my followers - was it too much? Then came the worry that I might actually never get my account back and the sadness at losing over 3 years of my life documented in photos. But then the embarrassing part - I actually started to hate not having access to Instagram. No way to see what my friends are up to on their stories, and no way to share what I was up to - but as a 30 something business owner and fitness professional, why on earth should I be panicking about 2 days with no Instagram? It really made me stop and think hard about how much emphasis I had been placing on IG and, as horrible as it was at the time, it actually gave me a much needed wake-up call that there is far more to life that a cat face filter and sharing a tiny snapshot of my day in a square picture.
Leading up to this incident, I had actually been suffering from what I guess I’d call social media anxiety. I’ve met an awful lot of people through Instagram - some of whom even came to me for advice when they first started their account, or who had a relatively small following to start with - but many of whom now have quite literally over 10 times the amount of followers I do. I see other Personal Trainers working out in the worlds best gyms, training celebrities, being sponsored by huge fitness brands and whilst I’m always happy for people who have worked hard to be where they are I couldn’t help feeling a little jealous, and insecure as to why I wasn’t getting these opportunities. With Instagram engagement plummeting in the past few weeks thanks to the new algorithm my likes, views and comments are dropping, yet a quick scroll through my feed brings up workout videos with tens of thousands of views, or transformation photos with pages of comments afterwards. I couldn’t help but compare. What am I doing wrong? Do people not like my content? Am I even any good at this, because if I was surely this would be me travelling the globe and landing lucrative sponsorship deals? Instagram had sadly blinded me to the truth that was actually in front of me. Being forced to take a step back made me realise that I had started to become obsessive about it, the exact opposite of what I wanted my account to be about when I set it up. I wanted to start an Instagram to help motivate and inspire people to live their best active life by sharing my story, my tips and my experience of fitness, health, weight loss and nutrition. My exact ethos was that if I could help even one person, then it was worth it. Yet here I was stressing about “only” getting 300 likes.
The reality is, I’ve worked in fitness for over 8 years. I have lost nearly 4 stone in weight to get to the point I’m at now. I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. I ditched my steady, well-paid corporate career to work in fitness full time because I was so passionate about working with people to help change their lives as fitness changed mine. I now run a successful London based Personal Training business and work with some incredible clients on a daily basis. I teach group fitness classes across the City, many of which are waitlist only. I’m married to my best friend and we own a lovely home that we worked hard to purchase. I have an incredible group of friends who have my back no matter what and make me cry with laughter when we get together.
None of this has anything to do with Instagram. I’d forgotten how lucky I actually am, and how hard I’ve worked to create a life I love because I was so busy worrying about my dropping social media engagement. Taking a step back and looking at the situation I can see that social media really is only a small part of a much bigger picture for me, and that is the way it needs to stay. When I stopped and though about it I realised that actually the vast majority of people I look up to in the industry, instructors who’s classes I happily pay to attend, trainers who are smashing their work day in day out, people who just work hard every single day to be the best version of themselves - none of these people are “social media famous” - but it doesn’t make me respect or admire them any less.
I’d urge anyone experiencing social media FOMO or jealousy or insecurity to actually do exactly what I had to. Take a break from the screen. Don’t look at your Instagram for 24-48 hours. Live your life. Go for brunch without photographing it. Have a super sweaty workout without the after selfie. Spend time with people you love without having to document it with a princess crown filter in your story. Be thankful for what you have right here and right now - your family, your friends, your home, your job, your health, the opportunity to work out and eat well because you can.
I’m not saying stop using Instagram, and I very much plan to continue to use it - but for the way I originally intended to. To inspire, motivate and educate. To meet like minded people. To discover cool new dinner spots, scroll though photos of adorable sausage dogs and watch make up contouring tutorials. Instagram is a tiny little bit of the bigger picture. Not the whole picture itself - no matter what filter you use.