A little less than a year ago I received an email from Instagram. The email read something to the effect that I had been chosen to be one of their featured users and that they valued me as a contributing member of the Instagram community.
Now having never received an email directly from Instagram in the few years that I had been active on the network I was shocked to say the least. I quickly closed my email app and opened Instagram, "three hundred forty new followers?!" I said to my friend as we were walking to lunch, "in less than two minutes!". I didn't know WHAT to think.
I watched as floods of new followers filled my notification page, likes and comments pouring through at a rate that I had personally never seen before. I couldn't believe it, not only was I being publicly endorsed by Instagram, but I couldn't believe how many of the followers were brand new users. Many of them without a bio or profile picture yet. They were adding up quicker than I could even wrap my head around. So fast that I thought it was a joke. "Someone must have created a new program that pranks your friends with thousands of followers in seconds", I thought to myself, but no. This was real, this was happening.
Still in somewhat of disbelief I shared the news with a few friends, trying my best not to gloat about it. I was filled with emotion: proud, accomplished, mostly thankful. Thankful that someone at Instagram came across my work and thought "this guy is good enough, let's throw him in the mix!"—ha.
Mind racing, I was thinking through a list of names as if fingering through a rolodex, trying to think who I might know that worked at Instagram and Facebook that could have dropped my name on someone's desk.
"Hey, here's my list of possible candidates for featured users", the person may have typed as they tapped send on their freshly curated email message to their boss, "you should check out @danielpatrick".
To be honest, it was probably a lot less grandiose than I'm painting it to be. Hundreds of people, talented creative people have been showcased on Instagram as a featured user, but at the time I was in a list with ESPN, Justin Bieber, and NASA—it went to my head a little bit. "I'm no one compared to NASA," I thought "those guys have PHDs and big lab coats—they shoot rockets into outer space! How is this possible?" Log in to your Instagram account, go to the settings, tap on the suggested users page and you'll see what I am talking about.
Now at the time, I didn't even know about this suggested users page. It's something you're presented with first joining the Instagram app and it had been so long since I joined that I had forgotten about it.
What shocked me the most? Not the fact that my name was next to Lebron James, Bieber, or the brilliant minds of NASA, but more so that the amount of brand new followers I was receiving were also brand new to Instagram. Thousands of users signing up in hours and they were now following me! Granted not every user tapped "follow" on my name during their on boarding process, which blew me away even more! I couldn't imagine how many actual users Instagram was amassing. The sheer volume—it gave me a whole new insight to the behind the scenes of a seemingly little, free, photo app.
More importantly, it's given me a greater respect for how much beauty there is in the world. Just tonight a photo from the UK popped up in my feed. "That looks just like the rolling green hills of highway 280 outside of San Francisco," I thought as I double tapped and commented "are you in California?!" She was not in California, she was in England, eight hours time difference and she was seeing a scene just like in my backyard. Our two worlds just became that much closer.
The thing I love most about Instagram (and the other social media networks I participate in) is connecting with and seeing so many talented people and the things they create. I continue to gain new followers every day and just about every one of them I tap through to their profile and scroll through their beautiful photos. Some of their travels, some their food, some fine art, some child's art—I love it all.
I am not alone.
There are people clear across the globe that don't speak my language that draw beautiful letters and pictures just like I do. They work hard, make things that they're passionate about, and share them with the world around them just like I do.
I am not the only one.
What I'm learning more every day is that there is beauty all around us, there is no doubt about it, but it takes a willingness to look and find it to appreciate its value. Look for it, on your screen and in the world around you. I'm sure you'll be surprised at what you find.
Oh, and to the person who made it possible for me to become a featured user on Instagram, whether you emailed my name to your boss or developed an algorithm that selected me as a viable candidate—THANKS. I hope you continue to search and find beauty in the world around you. Also, can I buy you a drink sometime?
With love, @danielpatrick, on Instagram and most other social networks.
P.S. If you know someone that works at Instagram or Facebook, would you forward this to them. I'd love to for their team to see how much of an impact this has made on my life and business, thanks.
If you would like to find out more about my time as a featured user or my views on the interconnected world we live in, email me firstname.lastname@example.org, I'd love to connect with you!