Friday, 17 February 2017

On Instagram stories: Why I love this platform PLUS my favourite follows

Image: Toni Hukkanen/Unsplash

Back in the day, Instagram was the pictures to Twitter's words. A way to visually capture where you were, what you were doing/eating/liking/disliking, all in one easy snap and with a quickly applied in-app filter.

Exhibit A below is my very first Instagram post. This heavily-filtered, vignetted to death snap was posted on 16 February 2011, six years ago almost to the day. It features my then three-year-old enjoying an ice cream after his immunisations.

Cute-o-meter? Off the scale. Number of likes? Zero.

Things were different then, back in the Hipstamatic years. No one was earning a living through Instagram. There were no courses, no backdrop shops, no professionals. It just didn't work that way.

In 2017, Instagram is a totally different game. Sure, folk still share their everyday snaps, their cute kids, their food. But now these pics fall into one of two camps: either they aren't doing it for the likes and their accounts stay personal or, in the case of bloggers, photographers and stylists, these pictures are perfectly balanced, carefully curated glimpses of life that play by the rules.

A while back, I pitched an idea to a magazine called Outside the Crop. Pretty self-explanatory, I wanted to know what was really going on outside those perfect little squares. The piles of laundry stacked up just out of shot. The cat hair on the other sofa. The dishes in the sink. (See this photography project for a similar concept.) For me, much as I love seeing the most beautiful aspects of life, I want to know the truth. I want real life, wonky angles, fuck ups. I want to know how people's voices sound. I want connection.

Blogging used to be more about community, less about brand collaborations (although these clearly have their place; this isn't a diss). There are so many excellent people I've met through our shared interest of putting fingers to keyboard. Researcher Brene Brown's work explores the human need for connection and how it's not synonymous with communication. She talks about how the only real way to connect is to be vulnerable, and what could be more vulnerable-making than putting your real self out there? As bloggers, we communicate a lot but I'm not sure how much we really connect anymore.

Instagram stories has brought that all back for me. It feels the most social of all the social medias and I end up having daily chats with my favourite storytellers. But Instagram stories also allows us to break the rules. I don't have to be on best behaviour because these stories only exist for 24 hours and then they disappear. There is life outside the crop, and it's life I want to know.

8 recommendations for particularly brilliant Instagram storytellers:

The creative brain behind Bando, one of the coolest brands around, @jengotch is a refreshingly open and candid CEO. She regularly makes me laugh, loudly.

@loveaudrey83 is Franky: blogger and wedding reporter, whose stories inspired me to be brave and start recording my own. I love hearing her musing on life, her experiences of CFS, and what she's cooking for supper.

Sasha of @balancedbeautybristol is a green beauty blogger. Her stories feature life with her two sons, recommendations for beauty products and vegan goodness. She's funny and sharp and I like her a lot.

@iamalisonperry – a friend in real life, Alison is a brilliant blogger and sparky writer whose Instagram feed is gloriously colourful and her stories reflect that, too.

Fritha is basically blogger royalty. Follow her cute stories @tigerlillyquinn for life with Wilf and Mabli, two cats and interiors love. She makes it all look so effortless.

@melwiggins is a lovely, lovely person. I've never met her but I feel like I know her through stories, and what I know is that she's witty, she's smart, she's dry and therefore totally my kind of person. And her Northern Irish accent is glorious.

Another ace blogger and writer is @alicej_t, whose stories and pieces to camera are engaging and funny. Her home is beautiful, her beauty product stash is covetable in the extreme, and her kids are adorbs.

@poppy_loves_london lives a pretty life of travel, food and insider info about our capital. Her stories are a great example of how this might all seem annoyingly perfect on the face of it but hearing and seeing her on stories brings it back to real life.

I keep remembering more people I love – @capturebylucy, @emmasaynor, @becki_clark_ – but I should really stop now!

Who do you follow? Do you like the talkie stories or the stills? Or do you stick with the grid? Let me know in the comments OR come and have a chat on Instagram – I'm @lottie_storey

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