I actually don’t have many close friends who use Instagram for professional or self-branding purposes. Most of them just use the platform to share personal phone-shot images, similar to the way we used to over-zealously share albums upon albums of photos on Facebook. I began my journey on Instagram without any expectations and without knowing what direction I wanted to head towards with my content, but over the past couple of years, the process has evolved and ignited into the fuel of my creative fire. Maybe it’s the result of immersing myself in the creative pool of New York City, or maybe it’s just chancing on remarkably talented individuals through the platform, but I’ve found myself being challenged and inspired to become a better content creator. Whether it’s through photography – both in front of and behind the camera – or through writing, I’m constantly looking to channel greater depths and raw emotions with what I create. Everyday, I stumble upon so many beautiful posts on Instagram that resonate so deeply with me, rousing me to produce content that will hopefully inspire others as well. A chain of empowerment, encouragement and inspiration: that is what I now see Instagram as.
A stream of endless inspiration, the platform has allowed me so many opportunities to share my work with strangers as well as connect with like-minded creators I would otherwise never have met from all over the world, and that is just absolutely amazing. With so many amazing artists out there, it’s easy to feel minuscule and inadequate in comparison which can become destructive, but it also transforms into a powerful tool that challenges me to never settle for “good enough.” I continuously learn to take smart risks in improving my eye and style while understanding that this is a community where we’re all uniquely talented and succeed in different ways. I’ve come across countless social media articles that tell me how important it is to build up a large following, but, while true on a certain level, numbers ultimately don’t dictate what kind of artist we are, or can be. The important thing is to find your signature, establish meaningful relationships with your followers, and be real and raw. We live in a world where the norm is to be the same, so it’s more imperative than ever to be true to ourselves and rise above that layer of sameness. I’m fortunate enough to find a “tribe” that genuinely engages with my posts, and there is nothing more humbling than when I strip down to my most vulnerable core to share personal thoughts, struggles, aspirations in my captions only to receive authentic, heartfelt responses in return.
I won’t lie though – there was a time recently when I felt so disenchanted with social media. It opened a gaping hole for anxiety and self-doubt to flood through my mind, because as much as Instagram is a place for artists seeking a safe space to release their craft, it is also saturated with noise. And this noise involves a lot of the sameness that I mentioned earlier: people copying each other, people chasing the same thing, people resorting to disingenuous efforts in the pursuit of building up a following. But I’ve learned to tune the noise out and look past that, focusing on discovering and nurturing connections with talented people I can only come across via Instagram, and whether I’m photographing with them, conversing with them, or simply just admiring their content, I’m finding ways to learn from them and creating new aspirations for myself to be better, and that is fuel to the fire like no other.
Photography by Aaron Chen