I am starting to wake up. Probably, many of us should.
We all know this small little app with beautiful images in square format on our mobile devices. You figured, I'm talking about Instagram, the social media app that should help us to share our creativity with the world, network and interact with other creatives to potentially find clients and brand cooperations. At least, that's what I thought it was. After one year of extensive use, I made a post called "Goodbye." I became fed up with this app. I wasted too much time already. But let's start from the very beginning!
Over the last months, I got lots of messages of people telling me: "Your life looks amazing! You travel, you photograph, you do what you love! I'm sure you will be successful" My life was in fact amazing, when I lived in Norway, but that was already more than one year ago. There, I did not earn much and did not want to spend money for 6 months on mobile Internet, as I knew I won’t live in this country forever. So I simply had a phone for calls and messages, which I carried with me for emergency situations. Frankly speaking, my avarice kept me offline when I was outside. And it felt great! I used printed maps, looked up my way at home on my computer and if I was not sure, I just reached out to strangers. I talked to many amazing people. No mobile phone in the world could give you that. But let's take a look at the time after Norway. Let's be honest, my life does not seem so awesome to me. My life is average. I'm a 26 years old single German guy, living in Poland, having a 40 hours job, work in shifts, love photography and Photoshop. I retouch images at work, afterwards I do some sports (Skating, swimming, running, whatsoever), shoot images and retouch them at home. Wow, my life is sooo amazing! Pretty normal, I would say. But that is exactly the point I want to make. Those so called "social media platforms" are not social. They are machines to ruin your social life. In my case, Instagram.
And here is why: We create an online personality, to showcase the best of us and to present ourselves in a way we want to be perceived. No surprise then that people think I am a successful travel photographer, if they see me checking in many times of the year in different countries of the world, see my pictures of all the beautiful places I see. I became a master, of showing how awesome my life is, although it's not. I have other problems. I just cover them, showing only the most awesome side of my life. The reality is that I became a smombie, a smartphone zombie. My life's schedule was dictated by a device in my pocket that I always had with me. And this device was dominated by the usage of one App - Instagram. In the beginning it was fun! I started adding hashtags to my posts and saw how my pictures were sent out into the world and seen by many people. For me as a photographer that is a great thing! Especially, because I got fed up with Facebook, like many other photographers, who built up their audiences for years but could not reach anyone anymore with their posts. That is, because Facebook implemented algorithms to shorten the reach of your posts; as an example: I had 4000 followers on my fanpage, but only 10% percent (so around 400 followers) had the chance to see my posts. For the rest of them, they were invisible. You can change that by paying money to Facebook, so that it gets exposed to more people. I totally understand Facebook, it's a good business.
But newcomers have no chance. So those newcomers moved away from Facebook to find another suitable platform to promote themselves and found Instagram. As a consequence, to keep the business going, Facebook bought Instagram. What happened then was obvious: They introduced the same algorithms to this platform. But the people who were there before, grew a huge audience already. So those algorithms favour the big ones and harm the newcomers.
Once again! What a surprise! From a business point of view for photographers, it is absolute nonsense. And that is why I uninstalled and stopped posting at this platform for two days. Honestly thinking about where my clients came from so far, Instagram was not among them, although it consumed a massive amount of time per day. At a certain point, the alter ego we create online determines our lives. I remember myself searching for wifi during my travels, or making weird priorities just to upload every day an image to Instagram, because I heard it's good business practice. I started over-consuming this app, due to the misbelief that photographic business success comes through Instagram. But that is a shitload of crap!
Instagram is a time slot-machine.
You think, the more time you spend on and the more money you throw into it, the higher your chances to make the big catch. But no, the opposite is the case! The harder you try, the harder the algorithm puts you down. It’s an endless game, your enemy gets stronger, the harder you try. And in order to try harder, you spend more time on it. Win for Instagram! Yeeeey! And instead of stopping to throw coins into the slot-machine and although you know that it is a programmed machine, you keep on going, telling yourself the next throw will be the big catch. Instagram is exactly the same! As soon as Instagram rolled out the new algorithms, my picture reach decreased. And what did I do? Of course I thought, I need to throw more images into it, like into a slot machine. So I started uploading whole image sets - 3 images per day in the same style. But what did that mean? I had to take, retouch and upload more images per day! Search for better hashtags, hoping my engagement goes up. How stupid was I?! So now think about my daily routine: 8 hours work per day (as a retoucher), go home, edit 3 or 6 images (takes 1,5-4 hours), upload them to my cloud, download it on my phone, think about a caption, search for hashtags, wait until people comment to immediately reply to it and keeping on checking who watches your content. Luckily enough, I knew already for a long time that likes don’t reflect the quality of my work. Still, I wanted to make the big catch and upload the perfect image that goes viral. Now you judge:
Was my life really that awesome?!
There are also positive sides of this app, which helped me to motivate myself and keep on improving my content or to keep up my endurance. But to be honest, I am tired of it! Those positive sides were for example that I once created an Insta-Story streak, in which I announced to go every day swimming after work. I mean, who cares anyway?! But Instagram is not about logic.
Anyway, the moment I made my personal challenge public and confirmed it with an image from the swimming pool when checking in, I did not want to look weak not going there. And I remember, the third day I was really tired after work, but still I went there, made some sport and it felt great! I finished my streak and was proud of myself. No one else cared probably, but I was satisfied and knew that Instagram helped me with it.
I also discovered an amazing community of local Instagrammers (@Igersgdansk). We met weekly in nice locations to just hang out, chat, and photographically explore some cool new places together. And hands down, that is my biggest gain from this platform! Real people, real meetings. Not the virtual life. And that is why I came to the conclusion that I need to stop using this app and just meet people in real life! My online alter ego influenced my offline personality so strongly that I stopped doing things I wanted, in favour of things I thought others want me to see doing. Really stupid of me! If you still think, it's just me who over-consumed this and that it does not affect you at all, maybe watch this video:
Sooner or later, we all fall into the same trap. And I don't want you to go down this path as well.
Uninstall the social media apps you really don't need and spend your time. Have really awesome experiences and enjoy your life. You can take pictures, but don't document everything! :) And yesterday, my day felt sooo incredibly and amazingly long as I did not spend any time on Instagram. I finally had time and energy to do what I wanted: Learning more about videography.
And I don't know how you feel right now, but I feel like going to the kitchen, making myself a cup of coffee, eat some chocolate, do some crosswords and allow myself a break. And over the next weeks, I should go out and get my social life back!