Spilling the Tea on Insta Engagement Pods

Over on my Instagram stories, I asked if you guys wanted me to do a little post all about my experience with blogger group chats. You can probably guess from this post that the answer was a resounding yes and so, as promised, I’m here to spill the goss and my personal opinion on the subject. So buckle up, grab your mug, and get ready for some piping hot tea.

Back when I had only just started properly getting in to my blog Instagram and had a humble 400 followers, I received a dm from another blogger asking if I would like to be part of a group chat. This group would have loads of other bloggers from around the globe and it would be a place for us to chat, get to know each other and support each others Instagrams. As someone who was just starting out, I was (and still am now) an extremely small fish in a big blogging pond and so I thought this would be a great idea, and something that would really help me to gain confidence and support for my page. I felt really happy to have been asked to be a part of something like that seeing as my page was so small it was practically undiscoverable, so naturally, I said I would love to be involved. Soon enough, I received the first message that welcomed me into the new group!

As someone who keeps their phone (much to the annoyance of others) on ‘do not disturb’ around 90% of the time, it is unsurprising that I decided to mute the chat almost the second I became part of it. This wasn’t really anything to do with the chat itself per se, but more because of my aversion to constant notifications. Myself and others posted in to introduce ourselves, and the first instruction we were given was to follow everyone else in the chat – a fair enough requirement, I thought, as we were all going to be interacting with each other quite a lot. So once I had gone through and followed all the participants, I thought I was good to go. I could spend time gradually getting to know the bloggers in the chat and building up a community. That was what it was all about right? Wrong.

It didn’t take long (and by that I literally mean a few hours) for people to start posting in their latest post with a message saying ‘NEW’ and asking everyone to like it. Do you ever get that feeling of not wanting to do something that you would have done anyway simply because someone has now asked you to do it? I knew that I would have liked their photo when I saw it on my feed, but something about being asked to do it irritated me. Still, I thought it was fair enough, and since I probably would have done it anyway, I obliged.

After a while of this, despite my annoyances, I wanted to try and support people and get involved. So, like the others, I even posted in a few of my recent uploads to the chat. There were quite a lot of people in the chat, and I realised how hard it was to try and keep up with scrolling through to like everyone’s posts, without being on my phone every second of the day. I felt like it had become a bit forced…That was until someone dusted off the old group chat rule book, and I realised that that was just the beginning.

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Bloggers began posting huge paragraphs into the chat explaining the ‘rules’ of the group. These included liking every single post, saving every single post, commenting on every single post (ensuring that the comment is over 3 words long because ‘Instagram doesn’t count it as engagement otherwise’), sharing posts and posting in whenever you have a new post yourself. It’s safe to say I very quickly realised the real agenda of the group. Every so often, a blogger would post in saying that Instagram was trying to stop people from generating forced engagement (clearly without seeing the irony of being part of the chat itself) and so everyone would have to change the way they notified the group about a new post to avoid getting their account suspended. This ranged from simply writing ‘NEW’, to putting a set of a emojis that represented the post, or a few words that described the post, with the method having to change every couple of weeks.

From this point onwards I pretty much decided that I didn’t want to be part of the chat anymore. Not only did I feel pressured to interact with posts from bloggers, quite a few of whom, simply didn’t share the same style as me, but I was painfully aware of the forced nature of all of the comments on my own posts. Obviously, it feels great to get support on your posts and I appreciated every single comment I get. But when you know that those comments are part of a pre-determined rule book hidden under the guise of ‘blogger babe support‘, then they just don’t have quite the same meaning. If you’ve read my post on authenticity then you know how much it means to me to create genuine relationships online and to portray my personality as accurately as possible, so the decidedly false nature of this engagement bubble on Instagram just wasn’t for me. I didn’t leave the group, but I simply kept it muted and didn’t post anything in it. If I saw posts on my feed that I genuinely liked, I would like and comment to give people support, but I didn’t spend my time scrolling through endless accounts to interact with posts that quite frankly, I didn’t really like that much.

As time went on, I think a few of the members must have had the same opinion as myself and stopped posting or interacting in the chat because I started noticing long, frustrated rants from bloggers about those who weren’t following the rules for every single post. In their eyes, those who didn’t follow the rules were not ‘genuine’ like the rest of those who did. Pretty ironic when the entire reason I didn’t take part was because of how disingenuous the whole thing was. After a few of these rants, the remaining members decided it was time to make a new group chat that contained only the ‘dedicated’ members (an idea which I welcomed with open arms), and that was the last I ever heard from the group.

Since then, I have been asked multiple times if I wanted to be part of blogger group chats and of course, I have politely declined. The idea of being required to interact with posts simply for the sake of numbers just isn’t something that appeals to me. As I mentioned in my post on authenticity, I have built up a small, but wonderful following of bloggers that share my style and interests, whom I interact with as friends on a daily basis. I can honestly say that everything I do on Instagram is genuine. If I like your post, it’s because I like it, if I comment on your post, I mean everything I say. My engagement feels authentic because it isn’t forced, it’s my genuine thoughts and opinions!

This post isn’t to shame people that want to be part of blogger group chats, because everyone has different opinions and blogging goals, and of course, not every chat turns into a forced engagement pod like mine did. Also, I am by NO means saying that you shouldn’t interact with other bloggers. I talk to people on Instagram every single day, and have built up lots of genuine relationships with my followers, after all, that’s one of the best parts of being in this community! However, I did want to share my experience with engagement pods, firstly because I like to give my honest opinions on here and secondly just to give another little reminder that not everything you see online is real. I also want say a little thank you to those that do give me genuine engagement and comments on my posts, because it means the world to me and has helped me gain so much confidence over the time I’ve been blogging, you guys really are the best.

Have you ever had any experience with Instagram group chats? Was it a positive or negative experience? I’d love to know in the comments below!

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