At the weekend I hit 50K followers on Instagram. You might be thinking – so what? Who cares? And quite right. You’re entitled. After the counter flicked from 49.9 to 50, I messaged my best friend to tell her. I was feeling a bit chuffed. I’m not sure why really. Thousands of people have a much higher following than that, hundreds of which I follow myself. The joy of instagram is that numbers don’t matter. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the community behind it and the fact that through a shared passion and love of photography and instagram itself, you can find yourself connecting with a person who has 20 followers one day, and then someone who has 200,000 the next. Anyway. My superficial chuffed feeling was fleeting. BFF replied with a polite ‘Whoop! Well done’ followed by a revelation that in recent days she had played a major role in raising more than £20k for someone who had lost a limb to cancer. Yep. Even as I write this I can feel a bit of the shame creeping back into my cheeks and colouring them pink. Now THAT is something to feel chuffed with yourself about. And incredibly proud of her I am too.
Having said that, putting both of those feelings to one side for the sake of this blog post, instagram has kind of changed my life. That sounds dramatic and I don’t mean it to, because for some instagrammers that change is very literal and I’ve witnessed it through the years of following their accounts. Take @robinmay. She met her soulmate @matthewjay on instagram and married him. Take the lovely Sara @me_and_orla, who recently quit her day job in the health service to blog, instagram and be a content creator full time. Take Kael @punkodelish who travels the world taking beautiful photos – all down to the incredible following and feed she has built up over the last five years on this app.
The changes for me don’t compete with such social media fairy tales. But instagram, particularly in the last 12 months, has opened up some brilliant opportunities for me. I’ve been able to partner up with Visit Britain and collaborate with some brands that I love – like Boden, Newgate Watches and Daniel Wellington. When I first downloaded this app back in 2011, such things would have seemed impossible to me. What came before that and what continues today are four years plus of building a social media account and unexpectedly, making real friendships with some amazing people along the way. Some of those people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person – @secretsofabutterfly, @jenniferelizabeth_, @lutherino, @ffionmckeown, @me_and_orla, @belindalovelee, @sunflowerof21, @5ftinf, @huntersandheels and @sallyfazeli to name just a few.
Taken in a coffee shop in Cardiff in September 2014 when I met up with @belindalovelee. What a little beauty she is! I was two weeks pregnant at the time – obviously too early to tell people, but I figured B didn’t know my family and friends so I could tell her my news, and I did!
And then there’s Kael. Aforementioned. The first person I called a friend who I knew purely through Instagram. Kael lives in Toronto and yet we’ve twice hung out – once on her birthday in 2013 in New York and then again in July this year in York (the latter partially spent watching the football in a pub with @wisslaren, no less!). We text. We write. I send her her favourite UK candy (Refresher bars!) in the mail. She sent me a gorgeous necklace in the post to cheer me up when my morning sickness was 24/7 sickness. We for reals. The question is not will we see each other again – it’s when?
When I first moved to Leeds in early 2012, I found that while I thought I knew no one, I in fact had a friend, and that was Lizzie @bettylawless. We’d gotten to know each other a little through Instagram over the course of about a year before I moved to her city, and in that first six months she really took me under her wing, showing me around, listening to me whinge and introducing me to the best coffee shops (still my favourites now – @laynesespresso & @mrsathas). I’ll never forget that. Lizzie was a friend in a place where I had none and when I really needed one.
And then there’re those who I’m yet to meet in person, but know that if I found myself in their part of the world or vice versa – for sure there’d be coffee dates to be had. Real friendships existing even though we haven’t met face to face. Hell there’s Instagram coffee dates waiting to happen all over the UK (@maurabryden, @hannahargyle, @ohsolovelyhelen, @kawaiigirl79 & @icklebabe – one day!) and don’t even get me started on those of you overseas. When I win the lotto there is clearly scope for a ’round the world Instagram coffee date’ trip. First stop Ana @aelia in Las Vegas!
- What impact has Instagram had on your life? Have you formed any friendships? I’d love to hear your Instagram related stories and experiences in the comments below.
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