Instagram: What’s wrong with it and why I gave up

Instagram, the social network of the day? Whoa, crazy, right? The ultimate goal of many photographers? Yeah, I kind of gave up. Not entirely. I will still keep my Instagram profile and I will post an image from my travels every now and then. But the enthusiasm wore off. It’s just not fun. In fact, it has become rather annoying.

I’d like to talk about a couple of reasons why I want to invest less time in the platform and also reduce the use of it. Yes, even as a photographer.

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1. Monsterous Instagram share accounts

Alright, let’s do a quick test – go to your Instagram explore page and check out what’s offered to you. How many actual creators can you see? And how many enormous anonymous share accounts like “Beautiful places” or “Amazing Europe”? I would bet my best woolen socks that the latter wins by miles.

Not only are share accounts pushing out the creators and sometimes not even giving them a credit, they have also become the ultimate power for defining quality. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not right. Why? For creatives, because they will eventually start creating ‘what’s popular’ rather than what their heart is telling them to create. And for other Instagram users simply because share accounts are usually quite bad advisors on what’s OK to do and what’s not. It’s not on their agenda to educate. They wouldn’t care that tickling a slow loris means a horrible torture for these cute exotic animals nor that getting certain “hero images” meant climbing over a fence, destroying wildlife or risking a life.

Don't provoke the big bear. Are massive share accounts the real winners of the Instagram game?
Don’t provoke the big bear. Are massive share accounts the real winners of the Instagram game? Credits: pixundfertig,

2. Bots are taking over

Seriously, it’s becoming a damned Terminator movie. There is not a single day I don’t receive a bot-generated comment (“Keep up the good work!”, “Love your account! Would you like to check mine?” and other rubbish), bot-generated follower or a fantastic offer to get 5.000 followers in a breeze. And my Instagram account is TINY! I do not want to know how many of these you can get, if you have a sizeable account.

What happens is that the proportion between real engagement on my account and the fake engagement is so ridiculous that it is not fun anymore. My gut feeling tells me that for each one single ‘real’ follower, I get something between 5-10 bot-generated ones (who follow & unfollow at some point).

Here’s a little story. It’s about a guy, let’s call him Tim:
I knew Tim from his YouTube channel and I was even a subscriber for some time, since I enjoyed his videos. One day, quite surprisingly, I got a like and follow from Tim. I was very pleased, followed back and wrote him a personal message saying thanks for following me and that I really enjoy Tim’s YouTube channel. Tim repplied with thanks. The moment I did my next Instagram post – boom! – Tim unfollowed. People using bot strategies often unfollow you when you upload a new post since it is more difficult to spot the decline of numbers in the swirl of new likes, comments and follows.
Result? I unsubscribed Tim on all platforms. He lost one real fan doing shady stuff. Do I want to be part of it? No.

At least James Blunt seems to have his priorities right:

James Blunt tweet - Jesus only needed 12 followers

Social Chain estimates that 25% of influencers use or have used bots to boost their profile. In the ad for their latest product, Social Chain mentions one Instagram influencer whose engagement is 96% fake, created by bots. You may ask ‘who cares?’. But think about it – these people charge real companies real money. In such case, 96% of the money is literally thrown away. Instagram as a company should be taking this very seriously as it will in long run damage its reputation.

3. Creativity and originality suffers

The more active I was on Instagram, the more I noticed how it impacts my creativity as well as my destination choice. A photography location is not beautiful because it is on Instagram. It is beautiful simply because it’s beautiful. Since I reduced the Instagram consumption, I felt not only more creative as a photographer but also as if I was suddenly able to shoot where I want, what I want and how I want.

The 'Hand of God' as I like to call it. One of the many Instagram photography clichés. Credits: Pexels,
The ‘Hand of God’ as I like to call it. One of the many Instagram photography clichés. Credits: Pexels,

Instagram success of others often forces us to believe their way up is the only right way. The sheep-like behaviour of many Instagram users may get you numbers, yes. But, will it satisfy you to simply follow the way other people already have gone? To become a copycat (in IG language: ‘to be inspired by others’)?

I started looking for new destinations on Google maps, I went to library and skimmed through books until I found something interesting. It felt great and I felt happier and more like an explorer. Definitely something I want to work on!

Going to library for photography inspiration? Yes, please! Credits: jarmoluk,
Going to library for photography inspiration? Yes, please! Credits: jarmoluk,

4. It’s all about becoming an influencer or making money while travelling

One of the internet’s serious diseases, which has become extremely condensed on this social network. Swipe through Instagram and soon you’ll believe that becoming an influencer is the only possible career choice. Everybody wants to get paid for chilling around the globe, so many people ask the question ‘how?’.

On Instagram, you’ll find a pretty big pile of nonsense about inspiration, passion, soul projects, travelling for a living etc. I guarantee you that almost all of it is a straight-up lie or even scam. These ‘motivational’ accounts have one feature in common – they never tell you how they achieved it. What are these people actually doing to be living their supposedly amazing lives full of expensive cars, yachts and private jets while travelling? Let me answer this question for them – that’s literally all they do. Exactly that. Blabbering about how awesome their life is and that yours could be too, as long as you follow them. They create envy and fear of missing out.

On the upside, if you follow the right people, you’ll find out that making money while travelling is possible. But it ALWAYS involves certain discomfort, loads and loads of hard work (blogging, teaching, online marketing, copyrighting, etc.) and usually years of doing it. And there is also some level of uncertainty and you rarely see your family and friends. In other words – it is not for everyone and no one will ever give you money for doing nothing. Get over it.

And why am I talking about it? I do not follow any get-paid-while-travelling so called creators but they still affects me and my work because I’m quite sure this trend is a significant reason for the existence of the three previous points I listed.

Sure you want to hang out with friends on a beach in some tropical paradise and get paid for it. Who the hell doesn't? But to get there, the way is either very hard or very shady. Credits: pasja1000,
Sure you want to hang out with friends on a beach in some tropical paradise and get paid for it. Who the hell doesn’t? But to get there, the way is either very hard or very shady. Credits: pasja1000,

5. If you take Instagram seriously, you’ll become a slave of algorithms

Right, you know about the Instagram bugs, I’ve just named but you still want to grow your Instagram account? Then you’ll have to accept to play according to IG rules. Meaning, you’ll have to do a research and adjust your behavior to what Instagram wants to see. And I don’t like it. I don’t like the fact that photographers who post 5-star images every now and then are doing 100x worse than someone who clutters up the IG space with selfies but does it regularly and frequently. Or that big accounts get reposted over and over again. Not necesarilly because of excellent content but because of the weight of these accounts. It’s all just calculation, no fun.

The fact alone that Instagram’s algorithm has become such a big topic in many heated discussions is to me a signal that something’s wrong. I mean – why is everyone trying to work out the way around it? People spend more time cheating the system than interacting with real followers. Isn’t a social network supposed to be about socializing?

6. It steals your time

Oh yeah, it does. Whether you upload your photography, or you’re just a reader, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I have a simple tip – switch off all IG notifications and remove the Instagram icon from your mobile’s main screen. That’s it, it’s only one click more but it works great for me. No reason to check the app every 5 minutes.

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