Build your author platform, they said. Sign up to Instagram, they said. So I did – about six months ago. And I’m gonna be honest, I still don’t really have a clue what Instagram is for. As far as I can tell, there are now a few different types of Instagrammers jostling for space on my phone screen.
I write some travel stuff so I follow other people who do travel stuff. At least that’s what I thought they did, but now I’m not sure. It doesn’t look like any sort of travelling I’ve done, because it consists entirely of heavily filtered images standing in fields of colourful flowers or on pristine beaches and staring off into the distance while wearing totally inappropriate clothing. There seem to be an inordinate number of people hiking while shirtless, barefoot or in bikini tops compared to back in my day when it was boringly all about “sun protection” and “proper ankle support”.
I’m told the captions are as important as the picture – which I guess is why travel couples favour Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King quotes. Because those two guys definitely devoted their lives to fighting for the right of white people to devote their own lives to endlessly taking and publishing selfies.
Social media gurus
The social media gurus really get my head into knots, because their whole business makes money by teaching other people how to promote their business like them – except the business they themselves promote is teaching other people how to promote their business. Meta.
Now that I have a “business” account, I’m bombarded with emails from these gurus, telling me how they can get me more likes by generating random comments from me on other people’s accounts so they’ll like me and I can pretend to like them but stop liking them as soon as they like me. This must be working for other people because I assume they’re responsible for comments like “Wow, so nice!” on my posts about getting beaten up by cops in Turkey.
I follow other writers to try to learn a thing or two about how it’s done. So what I’ve learned is that you can accumulate vast numbers of followers simply by posting a lot of selfies of you “writing” as well as artistic pictures of your laptop, notebook and coffee cup. What you don’t need to post, apparently, is your actual writing.
In fact, you can even set up a crowdfunding platform like Patreon and use your Instagram profile to ask your followers for monthly financial contributions (read: donations) to your writing lifestyle, as evidenced by pictures of your notebook and coffee cup. But you STILL don’t show any proof that you can write or indeed are doing any writing at all or will somehow use this money to write. I believe we used to call this “begging”.
These are the people who cut up books and put the pages all over their floor and then lie down with them to show how much they love books or something. WHY AREN’T YOU JUST READING THE BOOKS? WAIT, WHY AM I LOOKING AT THIS INSTEAD OF READING A BOOK?
I still haven’t figured out how we got to a point where we all became the stars of our own personal reality TV shows, with an endless output of something vaguely titled “content” for strangers to scroll through on their phones. But at least everyone is shouting positive (albeit automatically generated) reinforcement to each other (“Amazing shot!”) instead of angry insults like on Twitter.
But it’s 2019 and here we are, so why not follow me on Instagram? I post photos of countries with only the occasional pristine beach, the odd indulgent red carpet selfie, and actual excerpts from my writing.