To be blunt, I eventually found it to be a bore and not something that benefited my business. No, there doesn’t have to be a marketing angle to everything. But if it’s no longer helping me creatively, and the professional or financial impact is innocuous at best for those of us not a celebrity or big corporation, and if there is not genuine social currency then what is the point? I appreciated the support I received from some individuals on IG, but time is indeed precious and it’s time for me to invest it elsewhere.
Too often I hear from other photographers that their social media followers, regardless of the size or number of likes, don’t bring much business, if any, and despite their best efforts or quality, their fans “have not even bought me a cup of coffee.” And that’s the thing, for me IG became something I did while passing brief time at a coffee shop. IG as filler, and cheap empty calorie filler at best. Am I cynical on this? Yes. I’ll own that. But it’s hard for me to admit that it’s anything else.
This is not to say there isn’t some lovely work displayed on IG, there is. It’s just that the photography, professional or amateur, doesn’t resonate with me there. We never go back and look, at least I don’t. It doesn’t stick. And that’s a shame, because there are photos that really should. Perhaps it’s the medium or platform itself and how it impacts people consciously, but that’s something for the ghost of McLuhan to study. To me, it’s a place where people look for the bright shiny object, a sunset photo for example (I love good sunset pics), and they go, “Ooooooo” and press the like button and quickly move on. Then do the same again and again. It feels rote.
Also, just who is really benefiting? I know IG changed their TOS to be more user-friendly but their policy still seems ambiguous. I suppose if it’s okay with NatGeo and Magnum it should also be okay with me, unless they negotiated their own agreements. But that was of small concern.
The larger issue to me is about the return. I think photographers need to start thinking about their participation in this stuff. Or rather, how they’re participating? Why they’re so eager to give away free content on some networks, while only a few people behind the network cash in on that user-generated content?
I understand that some people just like it and think it’s fun, but have the user-generated for profit networks really helped a vast majority of photographers commercially? Perhaps for a well established relative few and possibly a few unknowns, but for noobs that’s like winning the lottery. Maybe the positive outcomes are amorphous, but overall its benefit is highly questionable. I also don’t buy the idea that I have to be on all social networks, just to do it.
In fairness, perhaps some of it is my fault, in that I didn’t put in enough effort on IG. Maybe I’m not leveraging the alleged power of it properly. I do succumb to social media fatigue easily. But that’s just it. If I don’t feel like I can give a network my all and deliver consistent quality content, along with a true emphasis on engagement then I don’t see much point in being there. To continue participating, despite my disinterest, is counter-productive for me and unfair to my followers and others who have liked my work. Eventually my disinterest would show in the work, and then it would be a lie.
If Facebook is the suburb or gated community of the Internet, Twitter the crazy part of downtown, Tumblr or BeHance the faux art colony, and LinkedIn the office park of the Internet, then what is Instagram and others like it? It seems to be the digital inside of a high school locker or an adolescent bedroom wall. While there is some folksy teen dream ideal in that, it’s not something I can feign enthusiasm for. IG was fun and a rejuvenation for a time, much like a dalliance is while on vacation. Similar to an experience like that, good as they are sometimes, it wasn’t meant to last.