Cell reception at work is very spotty and one evening as I exited the premises, I made the familiar stroll to my car while being the completionist that I am in catching up with the uninterrupted Instagram stream that thrives even without your presence. Once connectivity kicked in, I instantly noticed the surprising amount of Followers I had somehow gained.
I pick up Followers sporadically but surely not in the grand scale in which my numbers were growing at the moment. You don’t get an advance noticed that you’re going to become a Suggested User. What seems to be a typical indication is the massive amount of notifications that overtake your screen briefing you on the high volume of people that are Liking your photographs and subsequently Following you thereafter. At one point I was compelled to turn notifcations off on my iPhone because it was difficult to get anything done on the device because of them. A few minutes later, I received the coveted email.
If there were faithful guidelines as to what you should be doing to earn that spot of being featured as a Suggested User on Instagram then I would lay claim to be part of that minuscule group that is doing all the wrong things.
What did I do to get Suggested? Well, let me share with you what I don’t do. I don't engulf my photographs with hashtags, I don't take part in photo collaborations, I don't request Likes on my photos and construct a contest around it, I don't hashtag surf (randomly Like photos to draw users back to your account), I don't monitor the times I publish photos so as to garner the most Likes, I don't go out of my way to hang out with the "popular" folks so they could potentially take a photo of me, publish it on their stream and hope to gain more followers and I certainly don't know anyone personally that works at Instagram. I'm not saying any of these steps will lead you to the promise land (Suggested User List) and I certainly have nothing against anyone who partakes in these practices but all I'm saying is that I've done none of them and yet somehow I managed to join the elite status of being Suggested as a person to follow on Instagram to millions and millions of people.
According to the Instagram email I received, becoming a Suggested User means they “love your account and see you as a model Instagrammer and hope that during your time as a Suggested User, you’re able to show others your beautiful photographs and be an awesome community member.”
My personal opinion is that sometimes it’s pleasant to “just to live in a small Instagram world” where you’re well acquainted with most of your Followers and Followings not only by their Instagram handles but by their real names.
Over the course of a few days, I’ve noticed that Instagram Followers who come from the Suggested User list don't generally form real relationships or engaged in the community as much as the "normal" Followers do. By “normal” I mean Followers who I feel I’ve gained through spending the majority of my time actually publishing and socializing on Instagram rather than have been given Followers for being placed on what some might consider a pedestal.
As a photographer, I think a presence on Instagram is a great thing to have but once you start off on it, there’s no looking back. What Instagramming does to you is work its way inside, changing you completely as it finds a first class seat deep within you and I mean that in the most constructive way. It’s polished and upgraded the way in which I observe my surroundings and without question it’s lead me to meet some gifted and extraordinary people who I share a common interest with.
Other than my stats reflecting my Follower growth, I could share with you that I don’t feel the need to revamp anything I’ve been doing up until this point as far as my work. I've never uploaded anything unless I felt strongly about it and it's no different now. I’m well aware that portraits don’t generally tend to amass as many Likes as a sunset or rooftop photographs do but the moment I start photographing what I presume people will Like rather than what I have a proclivity for photographing then that’s probably the day everything I’ve done up until this point will stop being fun.
I'm deeply grateful for the recognition of being featured. It may or may not lead to unexpected opportunities like #TakeOnPocono Instagram Campaign but either way I'll continue photographing as if nothing had ever happened.