The engagement of people can be measured in virtual interactions. A follow here, a share there, a BLOCKED-YOU-because-you dumped-my-best friend everywhere. The “I met you at the bar for 3 minutes and now I’ve stalked your whole life” kind of interaction. These new social barriers are the reason I have adapted my personal brand for Instagram. Being the person you envision yourself to be is much easier on the Internet (and all of its forms). You have control on what flaws or insecurities the world doesn’t see, and can’t see. Put your face on; the performance mask, of how you want to be talked about in the real world. This virtual portrayal has its traps. But it also has its perks.
The most engagement I’ve gotten on a picture on Instagram was taken at NYFW in February. I was at the Emerge fashion show showcasing only African designers. Between using the right hashtags, posting at the right time of the night, and having an engaged community, I had the perfect storm of a well received post. Seeing the results of this post has kept me mindful of the type of picture I release. I do not want to over saturate my page with one look or type of post. I also did not want to flood my page from the many many shots I had during NYFW. I wanted to release them slowly and thoughtfully. There is a time and place.
In terms of getting caught up in the numbers... the bar always shifts. You used to be able to buy thousands of followers on Instagram, and that could lead to influencer deals (get paid and get free stuff, everyone’s dream?). Initially, companies were slow to realize that tons of followers don’t lead to lots of engagement, or the SELLING that these companies hoped these deals would lead to.
So I try not to care about how many likes you get on a picture, since the bar is always changing. As of now, that is determined by engagement on others' pictures/stories and liking. The virtual engagement. You like someone’s picture, and Instagram pushes your content right to them. They BETTER like your picture back, or are y’all really tight?
My ideas right now are to be cat_out_of_the_bag as possible. Dress who you aspire to be, or what is inspiring you right now. Dress how you want others to perceive you, and how you want them to talk about you in real life. If you want to draw/paint a picture or write and illustrate a book solely based on the affirmations you start your day with, why not dress according to your inspiration? Who says singing is reserved just for the shower or the car ride to work? You can dance on the street regardless of who is watching, Regardless if it is just to the music inside your head.
And who knows if —they— will even care. (Who THEY refers to is a whole other affair)
We all have these communities that we deal and interact with in the physical realm. Depending on how supportive/open your current reality can be, you tailor your persona and approach to cater to your surroundings. Who you are with your friends from work is VERY different than who you are when you go back home to your parent(s)
I always like to boil it down to the caveman mentality. If you were born different, or if your tribe/pack didn’t accept you; you were in danger. You didn’t receive the group protection, you didn’t share the hunt with them. You were hungry and left to fend for yourself. Our brain wants us to fit in, to be accepted by those around us. But take a look around, there are much more people now than a couple of hunt and gather packs. Our need for connection is much more complex. Find the tribe that supports who you want to be in the physical realm, and cheers and engages with you in the virtual reality that surrounds us.
Most of this article has been written pre-social distancing, but this paragraph has not. Right now, most of the connection we have is virtual. Your brand, your persona has been crafted long before this isolation. The work has been done. It is up to you how you leverage the social capital we all have been accumulating. Check up virtually on an old friend, or a connection you wished was stronger. The excuse of everyday life getting in the way of responding to messaging no longer applies. Can you make a NEW connection, or at least give new flame to one that is now dim?
We are not alone. We never have been.
The internet: grows, spreads, and has the organic distribution we never dreamed up. It’s not even CLOSE to being at scale. Keep in mind that these platforms of social media are only filled with the words we put on to it. That is all it has ever been.
Instagram has been toying with the idea of removing likes. Will it destroy the platform? If you are looking to cut deals, then yes sure. But if you’re in the business of expressing yourself; whether it be making sweet potato pie, to making beats; positively engage with your connections, and those connections will engage back. All virtually, of course. It just might lead to an in-human moment of beauty.
Sameer is a Creative Consultant living in New York City, who loves the transformative nature of fashion and how we use it as performance. He works with musicians and artists on and off the stage, to help bring their vision to life. A vintage/thrift enthusiast, he believes in using the resources around you to break the limitations we have placed on ourselves; and to reconstruct what it means to be: You.
Sunday Style is a New York City based digital publication on personal style.