As an “art,” Instagram is fairly straightforward. People enjoy photos with bright white lighting. People judge selfies, but “heart” them anyway. You can’t go wrong with a painstakingly arranged photo of coffee, a croissant, and fresh flowers. But what’s it like to have thousands upon thousands of people watching your every Insta-move?
I attended an “Art of Instagram” panel at Create + Cultivate last weekend, where blogger Shea Marie of Peace Love Shea, Julianne Hough, Whitney Port, and The Fat Jew appeared as the IRL faces behind those super-popular accounts. Hough says that she gets more likes when she posts duck-face selfies; The Fat Jew noted that “Instagram FOMO” was a particularly serious type of social media paranoia. Whitney Port will unfollow someone if they’re “too narcissistic,” and The Fat Jew will unfollow someone if they post “one more LA sunset.”
But it was Shea’s comments that stuck with me. With more than 700,000 Instagram followers, the blogger has managed to turn her Instagram account into a full-time gig. She noted that she feels “a lot of pressure to post really beautiful photos” and that “basic sweats aren’t good enough anymore — everything has to be perfect.”
So what’s it like to be Instagram famous? I talked to Shea afterward to find out more about the dark side of Instagram, because if 729,000 followers isn’t the key to happiness, then why am I so obsessed with breaking 200?
1. You get used to having gazillions of followers
Once you commit to having An Instagram Presence, you have to keep it up… forever. “I feel pressure for every photo to be better than the last, or to post a certain amount of times a day, or to have an outfit that’s different every day, and it’s really stressful, because I’m working on so many different things,” she says. “It does really tire me; sometimes I’m just like, I don’t want to post a photo today, I don’t want to look cute, I don’t want to have to live up to somebody else’s standards. I did this to myself, but I set a standard for myself — and you can’t go back from there, you have to always be getting better.”
5. People don’t always understand that this is a job
Everyone at the panel was preaching “authenticity” like it was a religion, but I really appreciated that Shea was realistic about it — because, come on, with 700K followers, everything is a lot more performative. “It’s such a hard balance,” she says. “I’m in a position where I have a lot of people looking up to me, so I can’t always totally be myself, because I need to realize that there are a lot of people seeing what I’m posting. Sometimes my personal friends are like ‘You’re totally not you on Instagram, you don’t show the real you, you don’t show how funny you are, or how not-so-proper you are,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, but you have to think that there’s a lot of young girls who are following me that look up to me.’ What I do in my personal life is one thing, but when you’re any kind of public figure you owe it to society to set a good example.”
Photo via peaceloveshea/Instagram
This article originally appeared on Bustle. Reprinted with permission.