The Art of Instagram Etiquette


  Artists-Positively-Present

 

"I'm so happy I found your account! I see your work all over the place, but I never knew who made it!" 

This was a comment I received on Instagram last week, and it's not the first of its kind. Last week I hit the 100,000 follower mark on Instagram, which, silly as it sounds, was a big deal to me. I know I'm supposed to act like I don't care about followers and these numbers don't matter, but when you're a brand — when you work hard to put up content almost daily and the number of people you reach correlates to your ability to actually afford groceries and rent — these numbers do matter. It was a really exciting milestone for me, but its brought to the surface some really mixed feelings I have about Instagram.

I love Instagram, obviously, and I want the platform to continue to thrive, but there are some major downsides for creators. Creators post on there, driving traffic to the app, but, unlike a platform like YouTube, creators aren't compensated for all of the work they do to bring people to the app. That's a big scale problem, and one that I don't have the capacity to directly address, but there's also the sharing (and, all too often, stealing) issue, which is what I want to talk about here. 

Before I get into it, I have to admit that writing about this is difficult for me, because I feel the following: 

  • Worried that I'll sound ungrateful for my audience
  • Silly for being angry about something like Instagram
  • Embarrassed that my ego is possessive of my work
  • Annoyed that I have to care about "credit" as a creator

But, as uncomfortable as I feel writing this, it's something I've been wanting to talk about for a long time. See, over the past few years, things have changed a lot in terms of Positively Present's content and audience. Part of this has been my personal growth, my desire to create and share art in addition to writing, and part of it is a shift in the way people consume content online. I used to just write (and occasionally create images or illustrations) here on the site. They would get shared, yes, but typically with a link to the site so it was a give-and-take situation: someone would take my work and share it and, in return, I would be given the opportunity to reach new people. But, with Instagram, all of that's different now. It's a lot more take than give. Because Instagram doesn't make it easy to share links (particularly if you don't have a large account) or credit creators, it's up to individuals to give credit, and many people don't know how (or even that they should). 

I've shared guidelines before (the number of times a day I have to write "Check the FAQ story highlights for details on sharing!" is mind-boggling), but I thought I'd write them out again here. Keep reading for more on why these guidelines are so important for creators ('cause it's about way more than wanting more followers!).  

  

PERSONAL ACCOUNT GUIDELINES

Creators love when personal accounts share their work because we're getting a real, positive promotion from someone who genuinely likes our work and wants to share it with family and friends. Unfortunately, because the everyday Instagram user often isn't familiar with Instagram etiquette, they often don't know to credit properly. Here's the deal:  

  • Always mention the creator in the first two lines of the caption.
  • Always tag the creator in the image itself.
  • Never filter, crop, or edit the image (doing so is changing the work without permission).
  • Never share a bunch of one creator's photos in a row (it's just rude. and weird.).
  • Consider purchasing something from a creator, particularly if you share the work frequently.
  • Stop following freebooting accounts (see below) and follow creators instead. 

 

BRAND ACCOUNT GUIDELINES 
 
Ideally, brands should be paying creators to make content for them — particularly the large brands — but since this isn't how things seem to work for the most part, at the very least, brands should do the following: 

  • Always ask permission before sharing. Large brands that have shared my work, magazines like ShapeGlamour, and Teen Vogue, do this. Smaller brands frequently do not, and it's problematic because no creator wants their work connected to a cause / product / celebrity they don't support.
  • Always mention the creator in the first two lines of the caption. This is especially important for brands to do because, if you're getting content for free, the very least you can do is drive some traffic to the creator's account. 
  • Always tag the creator in the image itself.
  • Never filter, crop, or edit the image (doing so is changing the work without a creator's permission).
  • Never share a bunch of one creator's photos in a row (it's just rude. and weird.).
  • Never imply the creator is a partner of or affiliated with the brand (unless a paid partnership is in place). 
  • Never use an image to promote a sale, promotion, event, or other business-related content. 
  • Hire the creators you really like to create custom work for you. It's way cooler than just reposting! 

 

FREEBOOTING ACCOUNT GUIDELINES

Freebooting accounts are Instagram accounts (like this) that do not create any of their own content, but instead share only other people's content to grow their own page. I'm not fully aware of the purpose of this and, in many cases, I don't believe it's malicious, but it's still harmful to creators and particularly unfair when these freebooting accounts grow very large and receive compensation in the form of sponsorships, ads, and other partnerships — all while creating no work of their own. 

  • Never share creators' work unless you're going to create work of your own. 
  • If you want to curate things, hop over to Pinterest. That's what it's for. 
  • Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of it? Likes? Stop it. 
  • Just cut it out.
  • No. 
  • Stop. 
  • Seriously. Why? 

 

So, why these guidelines? Why not just share my work and not worry about the credit? (A creator I love specifically says that anyone can share her work without credit and, as much as I love the idea of that — so selfless! so altruistic! — it plays all too well into the age-old tale of the starving artist, the notion that, in order to be creative, one doesn't actually make a living off one's work.) In reality, credit — as silly as it sounds — is a huge deal for creators.  

As far as I can tell, there's never been a period of time in history where creators' works were just taken and used whenever and wherever. If, back in the day, you owned an art shop, you couldn't just take a painter's work and then sell it as your own without physically stealing the paintings. Now, it's just a few taps on your phone, and you can take creative content and share it. For free. All the sharing is wonderful in that in can, if an image is credited properly, drive traffic to a creator's account. 

But, most of the time, creators' work isn't credited properly (or at all). I personally struggle with this a great deal. On one hand, I want to be open and carefree and think, I'm just generous creator and I'm happy to have my work shared and appreciated, even if I don't receive any appreciation or compensation for it. But another part of me can't seem to shake the notion that this work is mine. It whispers to me, You worked so hard on this. Why shouldn't you receive credit or, god forbid, compensation for what you've done? 

I don't want to feel the "mine-ness" of my work, but I do. Every time I see my work shared without credit, it feels like a sharp sting, a pinprick in my heart. Every time I see my work with the signature removed — someone's deliberate attempt to claim it as their own — it feels like I've been shoved to the ground, wind knocked out of me. 

This feeling of ownership is a strange mix of selfishness (That's mine!, my mind squeals like a toddler when her toy has been snatched away) and selflessness (Hey! When you just share others' work, you're really missing out on the joy of creating it yourself!, my mind also exclaims.) It sounds silly to say, but I almost feel guilty, being part of this culture that encourages people to look and share rather than make and create. Sometimes it feels like I'm spinning around on a giant dance floor — not the best dancer in the world, but having a damn good time — with all of these people standing on the sidelines saying, "Wow! I love your dance moves! That looks fun!" and I want to yell, If you like it, get out here! Try it. Make something! 

It makes me wonder: Why are creators giving so much away for free? (Answer: Because they have to in order to gain followers and be considered "successful" enough to be worthy of brand deals, ads, book contracts, etc.) What kinds of creativity are we losing by staring at screens filled with things other people have made instead of making things ourselves? (Answer: Unknown, but probably a lot of cool stuff!) Maybe we'd be better off if people put down their phones and picked up a pencil or a paintbrush. Perhaps this makes me sound ungrateful and petulant, but I'm constantly conflicted by the desire to make work that is appreciated and the desire to work alone quietly, undetected. And, as strange as it might sound if you're not in the same position, it's actually really stressful to be torn between these two things.

You might be thinking at this point: If you're so bothered by this, why don't you just not share it? Or just post it on your website? There are two main reasons I continue to share my work on Instagram (and other social media platforms): (1) It's one of the best ways to grow an audience and, therefore, make enough money to (barely...) be able to afford food, and (2) I genuinely enjoy it and want to help people. Have you ever heard that old saying, What would you do all day if you didn't have to worry about money? Well, I'm doing it. I love writing and drawing and creating and sharing and helping other people with simple things that speak to them. I really do. I don't really care about getting credit — yes, there's a part of me that thinks "mine!" but most of me really just wants to make things, even if no one sees them — but I do care about making a living and, like it or not, getting credit indirectly leads to getting paid.  

With this post, it’s not my intention to sound whiny or thankless — particularly amidst the joy of reaching a big Instagram milestone! 100k! Hooray!! — but, as much as social media feels like a frivolous time-waster, for a lot of creators — including me! — it’s really not. It matters. It's how we find work, sell products, build brands that will attract publishing houses or product distributors or whoever else can help us to grow our businesses. And, remember: the more a creator succeeds, the more content you'll likely get.

Mostly, I just wanted to get all of this out of my mind and into words. It's a weird and wonderful time to be a creative, and I'm incredibly grateful for all of the appreciation and opportunities that have come my way as a result of Instagram (and social media in general), but I think it's important for people who aren't creators — those who are consuming the content — to think about the other side to all of this free art. Creators are real people, people who work really hard to make things, and if you like what they do, you should support them — at the very least, by crediting their work, but, if you can, by actually paying for their work. 

If you can, buy something from a creator you follow this week. Pick up an art print. Buy a book. Or, if that's not an option, try creating something yourself. Above all, that's what I'd really love to see: more people creating, fewer people consuming. (Stay tuned for more on this soon!) 

I obviously had a lot to say on this subject, but I'd love to hear from you, too! Are you a creator? What is your experience with Instagram / sharing / social media? If you're not a creator, do you think about this? What are your thoughts now? Let me know in the comments section below!  


Hey, It's Okay : Accepting Who and Where You Are


Hey Its Okay - Positively Present

 

Back in January, I created had the idea for an illustration that would feature some of the things I was feeling that weren't exactly the most "positively present." I wanted to showcase the fact that, though I strive to be optimistic and mindful, I, like everyone else, struggle with a range of experiences and emotions that make it difficult to embrace positivity and present-ness at all times. When I first drew it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to post it because, after taking a step back, it seemed random (who would want to look at a coffee cup with a list beside it? like, why?), but I decided to put it up anyway, and it was a hit! 

I decided I'd make one every month with a different theme and list of things I'm feeling / experiencing (or, in some cases, things I'd seen others experiencing), and they've been some of my favorite things to create this year. Since I know not everyone here on the blog is following along on Instagram, I thought I'd share the set (so far!) here, just in case you might identify with any of these experiences or emotions. 

 

January_
January / Get it in the shop here

 

February_
February / Get it in the shop here

 

March_
March / Get it in the shop here

 

April_
April / Get it in the shop here

 

May
May / Get it in the shop here

 

June
June / Get it in the shop here

 

July
July / Get it in the shop here

 

August_
August / Get it in the shop here


I have the whole set hanging on my bedroom wall (Is it weird that I have my own art up? perhaps, but I make it 'cause I like it so why wouldn't I hang it! Plus, the prints from my shop are so bright and colorful that they always cheer me up!), and I honestly find it so helpful to see these reminders and recall that life is filled with ups and downs and some of the things that ruffled me in January are no longer relevant and some of the things I'm feeling now in August are unexpected. We don't know what life will bring, but it's nice to remind yourself every once and awhile that whatever you're going through, it's okay. It's okay to be flawed and confused and not certain. It's okay to feel anxious or unsettled or imperfect. 

I've still got four months to go on this little project. What would YOU like to see in one of these prints? Leave your ideas in the comments section below and maybe they'll make it to one of the four remaining prints! 

 


The Power of Perseverance in Breaking Bad Habits


Positively-Present-Fall-Down-Seven
 
 
It's been about six weeks since I started worked with my coach, Reba, on my phone overuse issue, and, while I've had my ups and downs, overall it feels like I've made some pretty major progress. Phone overuse is something I've struggled with for a really long time, so of course it's not magically gone with just six weeks of attention, strategizing, and change, but I'm feeling much more positive about (and in control of!) my relationship with my phone. 
 
For me, having the accountability of a coach has been massively helpful, because, as with trying to break any bad habit or tackle an addiction, going it alone is often incredibly difficult (if not impossible). My ultimate goal when I started working with Reba was to be pain-free and to have more control over my relationship with my phone. I'm still in physical therapy for pain, but it's gotten so much better over the past few weeks. 
 
And, most importantly, I feel like I'm much more aware of what I'm doing when I reach for my phone. Do I still have moments when I scrolling mindlessly? Yes. Do I still find myself reaching for my phone when I'm stressed or tired? Yes. But, through awareness and the strategies Reba and I have come up with, I'm looking at it much less often and, when I do look at it, I'm much more aware of what I'm doing (and typically spend much less time scrolling than I used to). 
 
Working to have a balanced relationship with something that's highly addictive but that I still want to have in my life has been difficult. I tend to default to all-or-nothing, but working with Reba has taught me that the "all-or-nothing" mentality is something that, while it might come more easily to me, isn't the only option. If I give a problem like the one I've been facing with phone overuse my time and attention (and a hearty helping of accountability), I'm able to find strategies that allow for balance and moderation. 
 
Speaking of strategies, here are two new ones that I've recently implemented. I'm sharing these because (a) they've helped me, and (b) they're perfect examples of how creating balance is an ongoing process. 
 
 
 
GOING GREYSCALE. 
 
This is often one of the top recommendations for those suffering with phone addiction, but I used to think to myself, I absolutely cannot do that. Everything I work on is so impacted by color and not being able to see it would make it impossible to work in apps like Instagram. But this week, after watching this video, I thought to myself, Why not just try it? I can turn it off if it's not working out, and I can always turn it on to see how things look on Instagram and turn it off again. 
 
I'd been holding myself back with the belief that I couldn't try that strategy (something I think a lot of us do when trying to break bad habits), but when I found myself thinking I can't, I reminded myself that it was up to me to choose what I could and couldn't do, to decide where I wanted to spend my time. Did I want to spend it sucked into the colorful images in an app? Or did I want to do something else with my time? If I really wanted to work on this phone issue, I had to give everything a shot. 
 
There's a reason this is one of the most popular tactics for combatting phone addiction. It works. I know how hard this one can be to implement, but I highly recommend it.
 
 
HIDING INSTAGRAM. 
 
The other strategy I've recently implemented is hiding Instagram, the most tempting of the apps still on my phone. A few weeks back, I hid Twitter and Pinterest, putting them on a third page of a folder so I had to click/swipe four times to get to them), and it greatly reduced the amount of time I spent on them because I had time to think about whether or not I really wanted to use them (a pause that doesn't exist when the button is right there on the home screen). While I ultimately ended up removing the Twitter and Pinterest apps from my phone, that's not an option with Instagram so I figured the next best thing would be to hide it. I put it in a folder, again on the third page, so I have to do some swiping to get to it. So far it seems to be helping! 
 
(What's fascinating though it how many times I still click the spot where it was on my home screen, even though it's no longer there. It's showing me how much of a habit it was to click it and how little I was actually thinking about what I was doing. I've put the MOON app in that spot now and it's a perfect reminder to focus on the present every time I click it accidentally.) 
 
 
 
I share these two new strategies as a reminder that there's no quick fix when you're dealing with an issue that doesn't have an all-or-nothing solution, and it takes time to figure out what works. Some strategies might been to be changed or abandoned; some new strategies might been to be added. 
 
Changing a behavior that's been dominating your life for years is going to take time and effort. It's going to be an ongoing effort, maybe with no clear solution or endpoint. But just because you don't have a clear view of the finish line doesn't mean you don't get in the race. And, once you're in the race, if you trip and fall, that doesn't mean you have to just lie there. You get up and keep going, and that's what my plan is with this whole phone situation. It's not perfect yet and probably never will be, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to keep working on it, keep using the strategies that've worked and keep seeking new ones to keep improving. 
 
 
Now Reba's going to share some of her insights on helping me work through this phone issue so you can get another perspective! Keep reading below for Reba's thoughts on the power of perseverance. 
 
 
 
After reading Dani's wrap-up of our work together above, I replied, "This is great writing, but you aren't giving yourself enough credit!"
 
Early in this process, we talked about recognizing your own courage — the bravery it takes to make a change and ask for help. Now we need to pause for a moment to see our progress, and give ourselves a big pile of gold stars and a confetti parade. Or, at least a pat on the back.
 
 
LOOK BACKWARD TO MOVE FORWARD
 
As Dani's coach, it is much easier to see her progress than it is for her; this is natural. For all of us, things are always clearer from the outside.  
 
I'm reminded of an experience I had earlier this year, when I went skiing with my husband's family — all expert level skiers. While I can ski passably, it takes me a few days and a lesson to warm up. By the end of the trip, I joined the family on several very difficult runs... and made it down without broken limbs. Even though I knew it was a tough mountain, I did not realize what I'd done until my husband patted me on the shoulder and told me to turn around and look at the towering (frightening!) slope I'd just descended. He said, "Look what you just did!"
 
Looking back at the mountain gave me confidence and momentum to keep trying new runs.
 
My job as a coach is to prompt Dani, and all my clients, to look backwards at all they have accomplished so they can move forward with renewed energy.
 
In Dani's case, she made so much more progress than she imagined she could in six weeks. On our final coaching call, Dani said, "If you had told me how much my pain could decrease and my mindfulness and phone/app control could increase in such a short time, I wouldn't have believed you!"
 
When we first started working together Dani lived at a 7-9 on the pain scale from phone use in her hand and arm.  She also felt the phone controlled her instead of the other way around. Dani wanted desperately to change her habits, but was discouraged from so many attempted tries to change. Despite her best efforts, Dani always ending up back where she started, or worse. (I know every dieter out there has experienced the discouragement of this "Bounce Back Effect.")
 
Now her pain is at a 3-4 range and just this week her physical therapist told her that she might be able to stop her sessions if she kept up with her at-home exercises! Go, DANI!
 
Whether it is digital addiction or any other change, don't forget to pause every few weeks and appreciate your progress. It will help keep you going!
 
 
HAVE A REALISTIC PLAN
 
Change and recovery never occur in a straight line — not for anyone! — which is why it is vital to be realistic about how you will move forward. Saying: "Great! I'm recovered! The phone will never control me again!" is approximately as effective as a habitual overeater vowing to never eat baked goods again.
 
A more helpful statement would be: "No step in the right direction is too small to measure," and count your wins as they come. This means proactively acknowledging there will be hours, maybe even days or weeks, where you will slip into old patterns sets you up for success. Temporary setbacks do not mean your work is in vain. They mean you are human!
 
One strategy that works for my clients is to make a plan for when things don't go as planned. A good tactic to implement this strategy is using this:
 
When I find myself doing __________________ (behavior),  I will: 
  • Call a friend or coach for support
  • Get outside for a short walk
  • Pick up a book
  • __________________ (Insert all behaviors you find useful)
 
Doing this short-circuits the mental process to help create new habits. 
 
 
TRY, TRY, TRY AGAIN
 
Back to my skiing experience for a moment. I had a realistic goal: to get better every day; I didn't tell myself I'd become an expert! I also had a plan: though I knew with certainty I would fall, I promised myself to ask for help to get back up and try again.
 
On my  third day of skiing, though, I got really upset. Not only did it seem like I had made no positive progress, but I'd fallen hard at least ten times! On the lift, a stranger asked me how my day was. I groaned, told him about the tumbles and bruises. "I think I'm in a fight with the mountain, and the mountain is winning," I told him miserably.
 
Continuance ContractI thought about how I tell my clients — "failure" is an opportunity for growth. Every single time you catch yourself doing actions that are not helpful and go back to the strategies that work for you, you strengthen your muscle memory of change.
 
This advice did not seem helpful on the mountain, when the only way down was, well, down — a vertical drop. I wondered if I had any business telling people about courage and change. I thought maybe I should turn in my life coach badge upon return.
 
The ski life stranger fell quiet for a moment before he asked: "Did you get back up every time you fell?"
 
I nodded yes.
 
"As long as you keep getting back up: you're winning."
 
Keep getting back up, and, if you need a reminder to keep going on your journey — whether it's phone over use-related or in relation to another habit you're trying to quit — download and fill out the free we created below. Putting it in writing will help keep you accountable (and remind you that, no matter how many times you fall, you can get back up and try again!)