Let me start this off in a very “shaking my fist at the sky in a bathrobe on my front porch while yelling GET OFF MY LAWN” way. I’ve been an Instagram user since it was a photo-sharing app that let people who liked taking photos share them, and people who enjoyed looking at photos see them.
Damn, am I just getting old, or is there not beauty in that kind of simplicity?
Unless you’ve been inhabiting the underside of a moldy piece of plywood, you know Facebook bought Instagram, and it ain’t a photo-sharing app no mo‘.
I ditched Facebook years ago because scrolling my feed started feeling like voluntarily soaking my psyche in a rusty bucket of toxic sludge.
As I 110% have the worst attitude imaginable about all things Facebook and 120% barrel my peepers into the ass-end of my grey matter any time it’s mentioned, you can imagine my dismay when Facebook swallowed Instagram.
Still, I decided to shove my hairy, saw-toothed attitude back into its steel shackles and give Facebook another chance.
Would I continue to enjoy being an Instagram user once it was subjected to the Facebook non-chronological cookie-cutter content hamster wheel algorithm of doom?
The answer I’ve come to is a thunderous absolutely. fawking. not. So I’m here to dear diary-out my fee-fees about it for a couple of reasons:
- There are wonderful, supportive people who follow me on Instagram that look forward to seeing my art and they’re gonna wonder where the eff it went.
- There are artists out there sifting through the ether of Google wondering if anyone else feels this way and I need them to know they’re not alone.
The TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version is:
- Instagram has had a negative effect on my mental health. Specifically my attention span, my creativity, and it makes me feel constantly overwhelmed.
- This app has eleventy-one things to keep up with for little reward. As a small creator, you’re constantly fighting the algorithm to have your work seen.
- I have noticed a trend of creators not supporting other creators on this app and I am not here for it.
- Content on Instagram has a short shelf life and they have no interest in protecting it.
Still with me? Want more details? Slingshot thy eyeballs downward. 👇🏼
Attention span, creativity, and overwhelm
Instagram has negatively affected my mental health in three ways: attention span, creativity, and overwhelm.
Scrolling through a feed that never ends has eaten away at my attention span. I’ve found myself drawn back into checking Instagram and unable to just sit with my own thoughts, which is a little scary. (My thoughts are scary too, just not as scary as having a giant tech company controlling my behavior. 👁 👄 👁)
I had initially told myself I was keeping the app to not only share my work, but to see and support the work of other artists.
But art is meant to be viewed for longer than a few seconds while scrolling by on an electronic device. And trying to make art that stands out in the feed brings me to how this app has been a detriment to my creativity.
Trying to make art that looks good on a tiny screen and is interesting enough to capture the attention of someone scrolling by has affected my creativity.
I’ve found myself not only creating art that fits the square format of Instagram, but stuck in an endless loop of trying to make it attention-catching as well.
I’ve also noticed myself being way too influenced by the work of other artists, which is no bueno. And I spend too much time trying to write a great caption, post at the “correct” times, and pick the right hashtags.
The hamburger meat of my attention span and the shrinking of my creativity leads me to the next thing aggravating the stew out of me: overwhelm.
Instagram has the features of what, at least three other apps now? Instagram TV is their answer to YouTube. Stories is their answer to Snapchat. Reels is their version of TikTok.
And you’re made to feel that to be successful, you have to do it all.
- Have the perfect, aesthetically pleasing feed. Scream into that void a few times a week so the people making it through the algorithm who actually see your posts don’t forget you exist.
- Post other stuff on Stories so you don’t mess up that feed. Fawk forbid you ruin the photo of the perfect white desk that doesn’t exist in reality, have other interests, or show that you’re an actual human with a real life.
- Create Reels in a tall format with a trending song. You can create a Reel in a wide format with a song that actually goes with the content you’re sharing, but no one will see it.
On top of creating 17 different kinds of content in 23 different formats in very specific ways, there are comments to respond to and DMs to read.
Oh, and because they don’t seem to give a shit about protecting their users you also have to wade through the horse mess of bots and scammers following you, impersonating you, and sending you messages. More on that later.
Got any time left? You’re also supposed to like and comment on others’ posts. And to do anything useful like have a store or the ability to link to things in Stories, you must have x many followers and/or a Facebook account.
It adds up fast and I’m reeling (lol, no pun intended) from the pressure.
Shallow content and the algorithm
While I have enjoyed beautiful, well-designed, thoughtful artwork on Instagram, only shallow, repetitive content seems to do well on the platform. (Ever heard the same song 83 times on Reels? The one that doesn’t even work with the content being shown? Rolling down in the deep with your oh no oh no oh no no no no no and getting Up with Cardi B? Yep.)
Thanks to the algorithm, the one that wants to tell you what you want to see, you could follow someone you like and hardly ever see what they post. And even though you can post content that isn’t shallow, as Julia Bausenhardt so eloquently puts it in her post on this subject, you can only engage with it in shallow ways.
I have noticed the algorithm pushing creators into doing dumb things they may not normally do in order to try and “beat the system.” Like creating a story to tell people about their new post or playing the follow/unfollow game.
The algorithm has made Instagram a lonely, antisocial place where creators don’t support other creators. You can spend hours feeding content into the hungry hungry hippo that is Instagram and see very little reward for your effort.
Instagram, security, and content integrity
I run an Instagram account for The Diesel Apartment, my other project about living in the desert, camping, and small space living. Creating content for that account doesn’t make me want to rip my soul out of my nose with a spork (yet), so for now, I’m keeping it.
The reason I mention my other account is that recently, someone I follow had a scammer impersonating them. The impersonator made an account that looked just like the legit account with 001 at the end of the username. They started messaging the followers of the legit account and tried getting personal information from them.
Luckily, the owner of the legit account noticed what was going on quickly. Unluckily, when they reported the scam account to Instagram, they refused to remove it. It was only removed when several followers of the legit account reported the account as a scammer.
I have a hard time believing that a company that makes billions of dollars a year with technology so advanced they can target ads to me on things I’ve only expressed private interest in is powerless to control bots and scammers on their platform.
And their refusal to protect their users and their content doesn’t make me excited to continue putting my artwork on Instagram.
In summary, I’d like to do more creating and less consuming. I think it will make me a better artist and a happier human.
While I’m not shunning social media completely, I’ll be spending my time on platforms that don’t make me miserable and where my content lasts longer than 3 seconds.
To that end, if you followed me on Instagram and you’d like to continue seeing my work:
- Bookmark this site and continue checking back for updates here on my blog.
- Trade email addresses with me here to be notified when I have new content.
- Subscribe to my YouTube channel here, as I’ll be uploading videos over there instead of on Instagram.
So if you’re an artist who’s feeling “meh” about Instagram or social media in general, know that you’re not alone, and there’s nothing wrong with you.
And if you’re someone who uses Instagram and loves it, I love that for you. This post isn’t meant to talk you out of using it, only to say that it isn’t working for me.
Thank you for reading, liking, following, and supporting me and my artwork. 💚