We get a lot of messaging about the benefits of going offline: 7 Unexpected Benefits of a Digital Detox! Apply the 5:2 diet to your screen time! But it takes a certain amount of guts to remain offline and stay silent about major life events, like having a baby… or getting a new haircut(!) There could be a payoff in terms of public perception though. Teddy Wayne recently wrote about the offline persona in The New York Times, saying, “the person who remains offline accrues mystique and is viewed as nobly intentioned… Who knows how they’re spending their time? Likely working hard for some transcendent and paradigm-shifting purpose, their online absence suggests.” Yeah, they’re probably just lurking.
We love to hate social media but we’re addicted to its abundance. With news of major changes from Instagram, is it time to give it up altogether?
Fashion brands have been relying on Instagram for organic reach but that’s all about to change with the announcement of an algorithmic feed, meaning users will see content that’s likely to appeal to them based on past activity rather than seeing chronological updates. It has led to mass hysteria on Instagram with Likes-reliant users panicking about the future of their content exposure. Instagram isn’t necessarily encouraging better content – it’s not a benevolent teacher, challenging its students to think outside the box for their own development. Rather, it’s pulling the rug from the influencers that have earned millions through the platform and wants a slice of that revenue. But, for content consumers it could be a great thing. Instagram has become a bit stale, with formulaic posts and styled compositions. There have been a few ripples of controversy (the #freethenipple movement and blogger @essenaoneill who re-captioned her posts to divulge the misery of a pretend-perfect Instagram life) but for the most part, it’s a safe space to indulge in fantasizing about other people’s interiors/breakfasts/sunglasses etc. For a brand, it’s tricky to reinvent a social media strategy but ideally it will lead to more exciting and meaningful content.
It’s a necessary shake-up because we’re slipping into a dangerous era of having nothing to say about anything. The great fashion writers (including bloggers) are being sidelined by the relentlessness of Instagram. Fashion influencers no longer even need to have a blog as long as their reach and engagement on Instagram is strong. We communicate in lightweight comments (THIS is everything!) and emoji expressions (😍) void of any kind of description, let alone analysis. I’m looking for substance and I’m not getting it from Instagram. Lots of fashion aficionados aren’t getting it there either but everyone must have a presence because we’re so scared of the missed opportunities for new followers, customers, self-worth and actual money. Edward Meadham of the now defunct fashion brand Meadham Kirchhoff laments the time when a designer could remain aloof as “the shy, sensitive, reclusive creative.” Now, even if a designer doesn’t possess the extraverted personality of say Marc Jacobs or Karl Lagerfeld, they’re still required to show up – and show off.
With consumers continually adding new social media platforms to their channels of expression and consumption (they’re on Snapchat now, in case you didn’t know!) it’s necessary for brands to roll with the punches and try to get their communications right. At the heart of the problem, precious few in the fashion industry are willing (or able) to go against the grain. Edward Meadham says, “I would love for fashion to re-evaluate its place in culture and the context in which it creates. To realise the necessity for creativity as well as - and not in spite of - commerce.” For business purposes, Instagram is a necessity but with these new changes maybe its more creative users will begin shine through.