By Ceej Tantengco
Illustration by Edward Joson
Your account, your rules.
Being a social media manager made me acutely aware of #feedgoals, or that curated, negative-space aesthetic used by lifestyle bloggers. That’s the dominant look, but it isn’t the only way to go.
My friend Karen is a photographer, and she uses Instagram as a portfolio—curating pristine landscapes from the top of mountains and rarely showing her own face. My college batchmate, Kiko, is a filmmaker, so every shot looks like a scene from a movie. One of our NCAA analysts, Mikee, is an athlete who gives zero shits about the grid and uses Instagram to post videos of himself telling jokes. I love looking at all three accounts.
There may be a more business-oriented way to look at social media—say, people who consistently post OOTDs have a shot at product placement deals—but really, there’s no right or wrong way to use it.
That said, you gotta draw the line somewhere.
Using social media is a bit like working in TV. You have to set your own limits about what you will and will not do, or else you’ll get sucked into the system of I’ll-do-anything-so-people-like-me. I love posting about my work as a reporter, but I’m also very conscious about seeming GGSS, so I make a point to alternate on-the-job selfies with shots of the athletes themselves. When I feel like there’s too much of my face on the grid, I take a self-imposed break and post a bunch of travel photos.
It’s up to you to figure out your own limits, but a good start is to think, “What do I not like to see on social media?” (Inch-long blocks of hashtags, maybe?) Then make sure you don’t do it yourself.
Know that the system can be gamed.
When you work in social media for a living, you get cynical about the entire affair. For every here’s-my-perfectly-arranged-mess-on-the-bed product placement shot, there’s a brand manager thankful that their investment paid off. For every blogger’s flatlay lunch racking up a thousand likes, there’s a social media manager snickering at how staged it is.
Real talk from the food world: A famous blogger was once invited to try a restaurant’s entire menu. She took a photo of the full-table spread, uploaded it with a caption about being matakaw and baboy, hashtag #cheatday—then refused to eat anything with carbs. This happens more often than you think.
So don’t worry if your Instagram doesn’t look like that of an “influencer.” Chances are their real life doesn’t look like that either.
Post what you like, and likes won’t matter.
Before I became a reporter, I was happy to hit 20 likes on a photo. By the time the NCAA basketball tournament ended, I had a string of 10 photos from the finals that each had close to 200 likes.
That’s nowhere near the thousands that top bloggers receive on a daily basis, but it was still the biggest I had ever gotten, and there was a part of me that wanted to hang on to that “standard.” I was disappointed when my next posts of normal life—hanging out with friends, food—received less than a hundred likes.
Then #BestNine2015 came out and I saw how off my results were. I remember 2015 as the year I started working in front of the camera after years of rejection and toiling away behind the scenes, the year I went on my first trip abroad with my boyfriend, the year my college friends and I attended Guimaras mango festival and tried the eat-all-you-can mango challenge. (I had six.) But if you ask #BestNine2015, my “best” or most-liked moments were makeup selfies and photos with random artistas.
What you like and what other people like are two different things. So don’t worry too much about the number of likes your photos get. Are you posting what you want to see or what you think other people want to see? Someone once told me, “Don’t worry about posing for pictures. Think happy thoughts when you smile so that no matter how the photo comes out, you know it was real. No happy photo was ever bad.”
I think the same goes for social media. Like yourself and the things you like, and there will be no regrets.
If you want to, there’s a way to curate your feed without it taking over your life.
Here’s something several restaurants do. Open a secret, private Instagram account where you can upload sets in advance and play around with the order whenever you have time. No staying up at ungodly hours. No pressure to delete a flubbed post right away. Spoiler alert: This is what I do now, and it’s oddly game-like and relaxing.
You had too much fun at the party and your photos are a little blurry. The concert was amazing but the blue lights don’t fit in your grid’s #mood. You got a bit of crazy eyes going on in that selfie. Social media may be a constructed playground where we present our highlights reel, best-foot-forward selves, but at some point, you got to have the sense of humor to say “fuck it,” and post it anyway.
It’s just social media, after all. Life’s messy, and if art mimics life, maybe your feed could use a little bit of messiness too.
This story has been published in our November-December 2016 issue and has been edited for web.