on instagram and algorithms

It was last week ago when I saw the news. I follow a popular food blogger on Instagram, she has over 150,000 followers, and she was telling us that Instagram is switching to an algorithm-based feed as opposed to a chronological-order one.

And I could feel a sinking, twisting feeling in my stomach.

My guess is you fall into three groups of people. You use Instagram and are annoyed by the supposed-changes to make the platform more like Facebook. You use Instagram (or don’t) and don’t care. You have no idea what I’m talking about.

If you’re in team three, I promise these words are not about technology, and I promise I am not offering tips about how to beat the algorithm, and I also promise to limit the use of the word algorithm starting now.

This is about social media and the sinking feeling in my stomach. 

Because this is what went through my head in the seconds after reading the food bloggers post: Who will see my work now? I was just getting started. She has tens of thousands of followers, and she’s concerned she will lose visibility, influence and business? I have no hope. 

I quit social media last August. I had just heard about Periscope, and it hit me: There will be a new social media platform every few months. There is absolutely no way I can keep up with this, but more importantly, I don’t even want to. I was not wired to try to draw attention to who I am and what I do through platforms. Why did I start writing? I wanted to tell stories.

It was true for the little girl I was in a small Filipino town when the stories were imaginary and scratched out by shaky cursive on lined paper. It was true when I reported and wrote for my university newspaper about favourite professors, changes to curriculum and the sexual habits of Christian young adults. If anything, blogging has been one of the weirdest writing phases because the storytelling has been less about other people and more about myself, but it is still storytelling. Writing and reading stories has always been my first love, and I realized in August that using social media to generate attention for my stories was soul-draining and creativity-killing work for me.

Then we moved to Australia, and there was no time to write or to do anything other than keep my sons from killing each other, making sure there were chicken nuggets and fish sticks in the freezer, and taking a shower once a month. But after a while, I missed Instagram. I missed taking photos. I missed sharing quick thoughts. What changed? I stopped looking at Instagram as a means to gaining greater influence, and I started seeing it as a new expression of creativity. I have very little time these days to write and photograph, but the ideas in my head have not stopped. When I have no outlet for my ideas or my creativity, I become cranky at best, angry and frustrated at worst. Instagram provided me with a space to share thoughts immediately when I didn’t have time to develop it into an essay. It let the thought fly away, my head was clearer, my afternoons were happier.

But still there it was when I saw her post last week. The twisting. The sinking.

The thoughts came back to me in the days that followed, Who will see my work now? What chance do I have?  No matter how much I focused on creating, I was still motivated by who saw my posts and how it impacted my blog stats. Maybe you’re on Instagram and you have thought it as well? Maybe you have no idea what Instagram is, but you’ve been making baby steps toward something you want, a new project, a degree, a promotion at work, a relationship, but something came up unexpectedly and you feel left behind and confused, like someone switched the plan, and you don’t know what to do next.


I don’t have answers, but I’m sharing here what I am telling myself.

Platforms come and go but people last forever. If you aren’t into social media, just substitute your thing for platforms (degrees come and go but people last forever, houses come and go but people last forever, etc.). I come back to this truth because it is my boundary line. People are eternal, and the investment I make in a person’s life is always an eternal investment. I may do that through a warm meal or a blog post, but the destination is ultimately the same, I want the life I’m interacting with to experience the love of God and the beauty of truth. How we make our investments is up to us and based on our unique wiring, but these deposits are worthy of our time, attention and love.

If something sparks fear, it needs to go. Fear, insecurity, comparison, none of these things are healthy fuel for a life of creativity, purpose and meaning. Our car runs on unleaded fuel, and it will die if I fill it with diesel (I think, I’m out of my depth here with a car analogy). We were not created to be motivated by fear. Your life was made by love, it is redeemed by perfect love, it is given purpose because of love, and you were made to run on love, and perfect love casts out all fear. For me this may mean quitting Instagram again, I’m not sure. For now it means ignoring all calls to turn on notifications and liking posts I don’t like for the sake of having it show up in my newsfeed.

Trust and workWho will see my work now?  I can trust that whomever needs to see my work will see it. The end. There is enough attention to go around. There is enough space in the world for me, there is enough space in the world for you. There is space for us to share our lives with each other.

It is the system of this world to make everyone, absolutely everyone, feel like their life is lacking. Scarcity drives our purchases, our values, our politics and our economies.

Radical trust is the only way to fight against the scarcity written into the fabric of our societies and our thinking. The radical trust that our lives are in hands that are bigger, stronger and good. The radical trust that my life and your life has a purpose and no person, platform or algorithm can get in the way of that. 

So whatever you think about Instagram, here’s to a life free from fear and lack. We have everything we need. Because we have everything we need, we can create, we can live, we can love. We can do our work. Find the people who need your investment. Invest yourself. Let go of fear and go all in with people. Loving people is worth it. Trust that you have enough. Do the work you’ve been given to do. One day Instagram will be gone, the only thing twittering will be the birds, and we will teleport ourselves into each others’ living rooms, but the investment we made in each others lives will remain forever. So here’s to each other and a life not dominated or controlled by social media.

[ba-dropcap size=”4″]N[/ba-dropcap]ow it’s your turn: What do you need to let go of? Where can you invest your life? And if you want to share, how are you processing social media these days?

I’m linking up with Jennifer and the #TellHisStory crew.

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13 thoughts on “on instagram and algorithms”

  1. Great job Devi! I particularly connected with this line: Your life was made by love, it is redeemed by perfect love, it is given purpose because of love, and you were made to run on love, and perfect love casts out all fear. #truthbomb and #Bravo Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Hello, fellow Hope writer! Thank you so much for this. This is everything I feel about social media and I am Taking in huge breaths of fresh air right now. Seriously. I started blogging for fun 5 years ago and I started out of a pure love of writing and a desire to grow both my craft and the courage to share my work with the world. But my ego took over very quickly, comparing my following to others’ and feeling bad about myself if I couldn’t keep up. This was especially true on social media and it has slowly been eating away at my Confidence, my creativity, and my inner peace. I am now in the process of starting a new website and wondering if I can get anywhere without sElling my soul to social media. This post is everything I needed to hear at this critical moment. Thank you so much. You’re a great writer and I’m looking forward to following your words.

    • Welcome, Lisa, it’s great to “have” you here. I’m sure your new site will be great, and blessings to you as you work on it. I really do think that finding a balance between social media and life is crucial to our wholeness as people in this particular time in history. I have to daily remind myself that there is something more for my life than social media, I was made for real life community and authenticity. The online world – for me, anyway – really comes in after that. I hope that your creative work is blessed and that you’ll have people around you as you keep wrestling with this, Lisa.

  3. You are truly a gifted writer and your blog is beautiful. Great content is always most important, and whatever distracts or discourages our hearts cannot be good for our ability to create good content–unless perhaps it gets a person like you to write a post like this, helping so many of us writers! Thank you!?? Let’s commit to being genuine!

  4. “A life not dominated or controlled by social media;” Me, A new writer, is battling inside what my next step is. I get influenced by likes, other blogs, and as much as I love what others say, I often think of the classic writers, who only had pen and paper. No social media. they weren’t dependent upon how many were reading their material before writing and publishing. They prayed, they thought, they listened, they wrote, they created. Oh, the voice of the Spirit moved the hands of the men of the Bible, and He can move ours. I think when I can get this, then any venue He wishes me to use will be adequate. Thank you for this confirmation in my heart. I needed to read your words.

    • Hi Mary, and thanks for stopping by. Congratulations on starting your writing process, that’s exciting. I think the saddest part about social media for writers is that it distracts from the work of writing, so whatever you think God is leading you to, do that. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. There are some people who thrive on social media, and they should do it, others are in between, others (like me) find ourselves depleted by too much time on social media. I truly believe that if we write out of a place of authenticity, at least our souls will prosper in the process. What could be better than that?

  5. “Who will see my work now? I can trust that whomever needs to see my work will see it. The end.” I have to admit i’m not looking forward to weird algorithm quirks with IG. 🙁 i’m somewhat with you…i love the writing but am somewhat divided over social media. though I must admit, i’ve found some awesome sites through social media.

    • Hi Lisa, yes I’ve found lots of great sites through social media, and am disappointed by the IG algorithm thing, but anything that offers a reason to examine ourselves is good, maybe?! Hope you have a great weekend.

  6. So true, Devi. i’m proud of your faithfulness to the Spirit leading you through this sticky journey. I have to admit, I was bummed when you left Facebook because it was a method I used to occasionally see your posts and be reminded to pop in on you and touch base with what God is doing in your life. But I was proud of you for following the spirit even if it took you away from me for a few months. After all, the spirit can always bring you to mind randomly and I can pop in on your blog without Facebook. I don’t use Facebook every day. I check in when I feel like it, (hopefully led by the spirit). Sometimes I check in every day for a week and sometimes I go a month without checking Facebook. No rhyme or reason, just whatever I feel. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve popped in for a minute and “landed” on the perfect post to feed my soul! Sometimes a post from you, sometimes from someone else. So yes! Your posts have always been landing in the perfect location. And I have confidence they will continue, no matter what methods you use to share your words.
    I have always been in love with the truth that says our lives are more well used if we touch one person in a way that heals or inspires their life for their good… More well used than if we touch 10,000 people with truth, but achieves nothing.
    God’s measurements of value and success are not of this world. You and I already know that. But knowing it and feeling it in our gut are two different things. I love you and I’m rejoicing with you over that twisting sensation in your stomach being healed.
    I am well acquainted with that awful, unwanted twisting sensation as it relates to other topics in my life.

    He is healing us. Halallujah!


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