Anyone whose been following me on Instagram will probably have noticed that my account appears to have perished. In fact some people have contacted me asking if I’ve blocked them because they were unable to access my body of work on IG.
I switched my Instagram Account off for a whole host of reasons so let me share those with you to see if any of these resonate;
1 – Realizing You’re Addicted
I was spending way too much time on IG, not just posting on there but doing the FOMO scroll whenever I had idle hands. Pointlessly ‘liking’ peoples comments and often doing the obligatory ‘reply’ so as to massage the egos of my most avid commenters. I’d become a ‘Facebook Drone’, conditioned into specific behaviours engineered by the boffins at Facebook.
I realized I was addicted, or at least becoming addicted. That didn’t sit well with me and going ‘Cold Turkey’ started to feel like a good idea.
2 – FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
Fear of missing out is one of the biggest drivers of social media. Whether real or perceived, I believe that this emotion is very unhealthy and should never be a motivating factor in how we live our lives. For this reason I don’t have Facebook on my phone – I just do NOT need that. But unfortunately, IG has always been a ‘phone only’ app that’s been deliberately hobbled on it’s desktop platform.
On my phone, I found myself doing the FOMO Scroll way too often, even allowing the results to determine where I went shooting next based on how badly I felt I was missing out on the ideal shot. If you’ve ever been skunked by crap light at Moraine Lake you know exactly what I’m talking about 😉
3 – That Awful Algorithm – ‘More Filler – Less Killer’
Gone are the days when you could reach the majority of your followers with a killer shot that received great engagement.
The current IG algorithm appears to reward low grade filler as long as you are constantly posting.
This seems to be standard Facebook culture which is the exact opposite of what Google did a few years ago with their ‘Penguin’ search engine algorithm update. Google set out to raise the standard of web content by rewarding those that create high quality content. Whether or not that worked, it was a noble goal that Facebook seems to oppose in the interests of a never ending stream of low grade trash.
I’m sure my followers would engage far more if I posted only my higher quality images less often than flaccid filler on a daily basis? If only IG would show it to them!
This issue nurtured in me a deep resentment of IG and how Facebook has warped the platform since they acquired it. One more reason to leave.
4 – Arse Kissing = Big Following
Cliques and schoolyard culture are alive and well on Instagram. One of the great things about IG is that your images can get shared or ‘featured’ by other IG accounts, often referred to as ‘Hubs’. They exist to post the content of others in return for a mention/credit in the description. This helps to promote the accounts of the contributors which often results in them gaining more followers. Awesome.
The down side of this culture is that it’s just like real life. It’s not ‘what you know’, it’s ‘who you know’. People promote their buddies even if their work is crap. I guess to expect otherwise is an unrealistic expectation, but it really annoys me to see great photographers that I admire struggle to gain followers while some of the lamest and laziest photographers win massive followings because they choose to spend their time cozying up to the hub owners.
Again, this promotes poor quality filler instead of high quality content. So my IG frustration groweth.
5 – Taking Back Artistic Control
IG even had an influence over how I shot my images. I’d often compose a shot with the IG 4×5 vertical crop in mind and that’s when you realize you’ve been fully compromised. When your artistic priority is governed by Facebooks photo sharing platform you’re already too far gone.
I think anyone who embraces social media as a means of marketing their brand should always cater to the platform they’re using but I think making that a top priority is a mistake. Create your best work first and then adapt to your different marketing platforms.
By switching off my IG account and taking a break from the platform I was able to re-evaluate and reboot my artistic vision with the priority being on ‘quality first’. After all, if I don’t love what I do – what’s the point?
6 – Making Better Use of Time
As I’ve already mentioned, the hours spent scrolling through my IG feed, liking and responding to comments were really not a good use of my time.
Since switching off my IG account I’ve devoted those missing hours to learning new skills and meeting deadlines more efficiently. This reduces general anxiety as I’ve become more productive, completely eradicated my FOMO and enhanced my skill set by turning those wasted hours into something that enriches my life.
7 – Morbid Fascination
I have to confess, I do have a morbid fascination in seeing what’s going to happen if I switch my account back on. Will I be punished for my absence or will I be temporarily blessed with more exposure as an incentive to come back to the fold? I seem to recall a similar positive outcome when I’d spent a lot of time away from Flickr in the past. Perhaps though it’s more likely that nothing will change.
Will I Go Back to Instagram?
Yes of course, but things will be different. I’ll switch my account back on and post my best images but I’ll never install the app on my phone again. I’ll upload images from my desktop via a third party app as IG still doesn’t allow that option. I’ll do my best to reply to questions and comments whenever possible but I will not allow IG to live in my pocket, ready to suck my attention whenever there’s a dull moment.
How I’d Like Instagram to Improve
I realize this blog post has read like a laundry list of complaints but the truth is that Instagram used to be an amazing photo sharing platform for photographers needing to market their brand. It could still be amazing if Facebook takes their head our of their digital arse holes.
Facebook is a business, they need to make money. I WANT them to make money so that they can continue to operate and run a powerful platform for photographers. They just need to figure a fair and effective way to do that which doesn’t alienate their users. If they fail to figure this out IG will topple.
I’d be more than happy to pay a monthly fee or a fair usage fee to reach the followers I have been lucky enough to win on IG. My fear is that Facebook will follow their standard practice of charging a lot for very little return on investment.
Tell me how you’d like to see IG move forward, your ideas on a pricing model that gives you maximum ROI and improves user engagement. You never know, if we come up with some great ideas maybe Facebook will listen and Instagram will be great again 🙂
Gavin, thanks for the helpful post. I also have issues with Instagram (IG).
As a serious photographer I see so many weaknesses in IG that make it frustrating on a daily basis, but I’ve given it 18 months to see if it got better. My goal for photo sharing tools is to share with interested people & groups, get useful feedback, see the great work being done and give them useful feedback, make a few friends, and build up a set of images that people can find easily. And maybe build up a good set of followers, but that wish taken too far can have good and bad aspects, so to me it’s less important.
A friend says he gets some photo business via IG but I don’t see how.
We’re talking about a simple app that was built for mobile users to quickly scroll through images on a phone, leave a Like or a “comment” (inscrutable emojis or classic terms from Shakespeare: “sick” & “dope”) and post their photos. Connecting with people who might like your work is almost completely dependent on one flat and limited mechanism: hashtags. You can’t use too many and you won’t get anywhere if you choose tags that are too generic or too specific. And a simple two-item search doesn’t work (e.g., “@cj_madson #ferrari”). It started out forcing square images — maybe 0.8% of all important images, ever — but now allows rectangles (to some extent). Features have been added (hey, dog-noses) but the fundamental constraints of hashtags applied to many millions of users leaves a lot of creative people wondering if their best stuff will ever get seen.
I understand your taking time away. I came to IG after many years using other tools for sharing (Flickr, for one) and brought those expectations to IG — but had to drop most of them and find workarounds. It’s too bad, because I have learned a lot from other shooters on other sites/tools over many years. I don’t think IG was ever meant to support that as a primary goal.
Your daily habits sound familiar. I only post once a day and from home, on the computer. I’m consistent with adding useful (?) tags, even though I doubt most people ever use them. I notice the Likes but don’t obsess about them, and try to post a mix of shots even though I know which ones consistently get the most Likes. I respond to comments of all kinds but mostly leave the emoji-only comments alone (some of those come from bots anyway). I delete all “Great — come look at mine” comments and bot-like comments, never do Like For Like junk, and don’t use the curators you mentioned to get additional exposure. I’ll probably never get 1000 followers but at least the ones I’ll have will be there for good reasons.
As for curators, they should never expect access to photos if they don’t provide photographer credit. And none of that lazy “To the respective owners” stuff — find out who shot it, share that, or don’t post it. It can be a win-win if you do it right.
A few people leave great comments with words and even sentences. I thank them a lot. I follow only good-to-great shooters so I don’t fall into the “Gotta Like this ‘cuz I want this connection” trap. I only Like images that are actually good-to-great images in my view, and if they’re great I’ll comment. I admit to wondering if a Like means much to someone whose shot already has 23K likes, but I’ll still give it.
IG is being treated as something truly enabling but it’s still got one foot in the Model T era. (I like Model Ts but not here.) They could grab some Facebook resources and make it much better, but I bet they’d be afraid to break what they have. So in the meantime I’ll stick with workarounds and limit my involvement. But a really great comment still gets my attention and gives me hope.
Thanks again. Keep shooting those beautiful shots, sharing productively and letting us know what you’re thinking.
Thanks for the detailed comment CJ. I do appreciate that. I also try to respond to real comments or well considered comments that show intelligence and demonstrate that people actually appreciate my work as those have great value. I wonder when or if IG has ever asked their users ”what would you like from this app?”. A quick and simple survey of their user base would yield great insights and a clear directions of where the app needs to go.
Although I read your article in detail, I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions. One thing I would like to say is how much I appreciate you as a real person. I remember when I was going to do my first night shoot ever at Mono Lake and I emailed you and asked you what tripod to get. You responded, and once I got to my hotel I emailed you again and said how excited I was to shoot the stars. You wrote me back and asked if I’d seen your Milky Way tutorial and sent me the link. Thanks to that response, I was able to increase the quality of my shooting on that 3-day trip by about 150%. I’ll never forget your kindness to me thank you Gavin!
Excellent Helen. Glad that helped you to get better shots 🙂
Hi Gavin – My wife and I are also photographers that use FB and IG to promote our business. We are also fans of your YouTube videos, especially the ones that include Adam Gibbs. What a timely blogg. We have also noted that the return on the investment of time, effort and coin has deminished significantly in the past year. We are reassessing how we will use the platforms in the future. I don’t have answers as yet. We have implemented several changes – focus more energy on local events, spend more time with fellow photographers, get disciplined on frequency of posting and time allocated to review of FB and IG and spend more time in thoughtful discussion with other photographers.
When I found out that Instagram was run by Facebook I decided to stay away. Far, far away. I do post to Flickr though and can post my images as they were taken in camera.
Cheers and thanks for the great videos.
Gavin, are you back on Instagram? I can’t seem to find your account if you are. I did find that grumpy Adam Gibbs’s account pretty easily.
Nope. Why? Did IG suddenly become less shit?
I’ve also grown to loathe IG too. Big fan of your YouTube videos though mate!
I’ve been a Flickr user since way back when it was popular with the popular crowd. Most of those people migrated over to IG. I miss them, but I’m not joining them. I dislike IG for all the reasons you posted – especially the superficial “engagement”.
For me, the experience is better in Flickr because I can use tagging more intuitively, I can engage with my friends more robustly, I can search for photos in the geo-map.
I hope one day that Flickr recaptures that audience, but the contacts I have there are still dear to me, and we don’t miss the IG experience at all.
Hi Gavin, great article.
I have been struggling with IG for a number of years now. I struggled because of the whole “you need followers to be successful and get sponsors and make photography a full time gig” thing….and I found it caused me an undue amount of stress and anxiety. I was constantly driven to post post post post….and much of the time, I was posting just to post and it wasn’t my best work. I was always clawing away trying to find the next “meet and greet” of local photographers to hob-knob and get in with those “hubs” to get more followers.
This article resonated with me massively as it told the truth of this IG world that has been created.
I still post on there, but in a very limited way. I haven’t taken it down, but I did take down my website, as it pointed to social media all over the bloody place.
I lost thousands of followers off my IG when I started to slow it way down, and initially that scared me, but man was it freeing. Like a weight off my shoulders.
So, new plan. Get a fresh website going, spend less time worrying about social media.
I just moved to the Alberta southern Rockies last April 2019, and I’ve been working on my portfolio, concentrating alot on astro work.
Anyway, thanks for the article that just echoed my own thoughts on IG and Facebook. Nice one mate.
Dion Kedian Travel and Adventure Photography
Just my thoughts well, and on reading this article and I wondered why I couldn’t find you Instagram so came to your site via one of your videos, this article really brought my own thoughts on Instagram of late, It just seems to be stuck in time capsule but I suppose it is what is and sometimes it’s best to just tune out.
Looking forward to the https://f4roadtrip.com hope you got your editing done otherwise Thomas Heaton might be sending more texts at 4am.
hahah, I did manage to get my editing done, Tom on the other hand…..
Not sure when you posted this, but spot on Gavin! (It’s probably gotten worse, FYI haha). I was looking for your Instagram and ended up here… Points 1, 3, & 4 are especially true. I find it frustrating that peoples’ accounts for their pets get the same or more likes/follows then genuine photography! I try to only follow photography content, and avoid using it like a traditional social media site (FB), but even then it is a rat race to post something that might stick. Do you find Flickr to be a better site to share work, besides a dedicated website? Anyways, I really enjoy your youtube content, keep up the great work! Happy new year!
This is years old and I see that since then IG has gotten worse. Flickr is a lot slower to gain followers but the followers are of a higher caliber. It’s a pure photography channel rather than here’s the shit I ate for lunch and look at my poodle crap. Happy new year.