Is Instagram really that bad?

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How I embraced Instagram and helped my daughter build a future career.

Like many others, about 18 months ago I didn’t really get Instagram; I could see it’s potential but just couldn’t quite understand the why of it. Because of the work I do I have countless parents and youth professionals asking me about the dangers of Instagram and how it was damaging young girls’ self-esteem and body image. I didn’t agree with these comments but I also didn’t have another narrative to put forward at the time, so I put my head down and decided to investigate.

So I investigated.

I started with the young people I have around me in my life, including my Instagram-obsessed 16 year old. I quickly learned that while on the surface the taking of the perfect selfie looked like a narcissistic pursuit, for them it was an art form, yes art. Instagram was as one described it their art gallery, it was their best work, be it their make-up, a picture of a beautiful place they had been to or a scene they wanted to capture. To them it was art and Instagram was their gallery. This allowed me to take an entirely different view of Instagram and what it represented. This platform was a visual platform for everything that the young person wanted to share with the world. Every share told your something about the person, their beliefs, what they hold true and what interested them.

And we learnt

Deciding that Instagram was indeed of interested to me, I joined forces with my eldest daughter to see if we could elevate her standing on this platform. She had an old Instagram account which we had started for a novel we wrote together but had never really done much with. We delved into the world of Instagram some more and discovered the wonderful Bookstagram community, a community of people who share pictures of books as well as their thoughts, reviews and reading habits. As an author this seemed like a perfect place for her. We started taking pictures of books; we had no idea what would happen, where it would lead and whether it was the right thing to do but we wanted to give it a go. At first her pictures were not the best and we struggled to grow and get it right, but we kept trying and we got better, eventually to a place where we felt that we were taking some pretty good photos.

And we built a business

This all happened to coincide with a work experience placement for my daughter at Michael Joseph publishing. I told her to get brave and tell them what she was doing on Instagram. On the second day the opportunity arose. She was mistaken for a photographer and given some books to take pictures of. When she told them their mistake she also told them that she did actually take pictures of books and showed them her Instagram feed. Intrigued, they gave her a book, asked her to take some pictures for them and bring them in tomorrow. She did and she has been taking pictures for them ever since. Her placement was for two weeks and after that she went freelance to take social media photos for them.

This all came from my belief as a mother that Instagram was not a bad thing and could maybe actually do some good. Fast forward and her instagram account grew from strength to strength; she now has three publishers on board with her picture-taking activities. She is 21, leaves university next year and already has a thriving business, real world experience of the publishing industry and great skills for any potential employer, should she want to go in that direction. Oh and we get to have lots of fun together taking photographs of all things book-related. The point you may ask?

Well, I do think that before we condemn something as a waste of time or an activity with no purpose we should think twice.

Before we chastise our children for taking selfies for all to see, maybe we should ask whether our child could actually be using that social media platform in a helpful way. When we condemn something at first sight we fail to see the potential opportunities and possibilities that it might possess. There are always two sides to every story and our job is to look at both.