Dear Instagram: It’s not me, it’s you.
In the Summer of 2010, I joined and fell in love with the app. However now my IG profile has been regulated to the same level of my business card; it will never bring me success no matter how good it looks, but I kept it because not having one when asked makes me look so much worse.
I keep my Instagram profile up to date because clients like to see the person behind the photographer. That’s something I only realized after making my profile private. New and long-standing client’s noticed. When I directed them to my “Professional Profile” that only housed images of my work it didn’t help. They felt like they were being regulated to the kid’s table at a dinner party, which they were, and that made them and me feel bad.
Let me be clear, your marketing strategy needs to include Instagram but it can not revolve around it. At a certain point, you will receive dimensioning returns from making this mistake. To do this you as a photographer will be defined by the platform and not by the work. Anyone dubbed as an “Insta famous” has fallen into this trap. The more you post, the more likes and follows you will receive no matter what, but, that will not translate proportionally to more clients, work and business. The platform will drain you from growth as you begin to only post images that receive the optimal amount of likes and follows. Don’t crowdsource approval, the crowd doesn’t know shit. Doing this stagnates your potential as you will only post images that are safe, too perfect and dare I say it “on-brand”. This strategy is a one-way ticket to mediocracy.
It’s free for any user on IG to switch their personal account to a business account but my point is that there is no difference between the two. IG is a place where people act as brands and brands act like people. The currency of like’s and follows is the basis of each transaction that spirals into a dangerous feedback loop. We must understand this perversion if we are to continue to use the platform to showcase our work as creative professionals. The danger is to continue to imitate authenticity when you are really pushing some kind of social or professional agenda. Instagram, I strongly believe is becoming less relevant with every passing day and is bound to go the way of Facebook. The party has gotten too big, filled with the same kind of people talking who are all having the same conversation and you are getting lost in the crowd. Instagram is changing and so should you.
It is far overdue for us all to recalibrate our relationship with the platform. To redefine the nature of our behavior on the platform before the platform defines us. This is necessary because IG for personal and business use is here to stay and if we don’t have the conscious tools to manage our behavior, a positive feedback loop of anxiety, jealousy, and resentment will consume us. Before I rail against IG, I must first trace the age-old need that Instagram fulfills in our lives.
The Carte de visite was popular in the 19th and early 20th century with the advent of photography. These “Cards of Visit” is the genesis of both the business card and the selfie. These cards were left behind usually in a basket by the door at parties by the more privileged class in 19th century America. The whole purpose was to say to the host “I was here. Here is my photo in case you forget”.
This little historical knowledge is the lens of which I observe the value of IG and how it is changing. When we post on IG, we may want to say a great many things, but we are inescapably always saying the same thing i.e; “I am here too. Don’t forget me.” Instagram is the party. A party that was originally about sharing photos, moments and even art. Now, much like the original derivation, Instagram is less about the image but more about the person behind the image. The power that Instagram possess over other platforms, is that it serves as everyone’s marketing department for their personal lives. Every post is selling us an idea of a person’s brand and this is where I find the platforms darkest perversion. Each post is a dishonest hyper-curated expression of how someone wants you to view them as a person and not their work and that’s okay. Let’s just stop pretending it is something that it’s not. Let’s stop pretending that an Instagram profile is an honest interpretation of reality. If IG was an honest vehicle in which to express our experiences than where are the posts about rejection and lose? Finder benders and failure? Struggle and confusion? You know, LIFE.
Anthony Bourdain first made a name for himself because he wrote the book that he always wanted to read, Kitchen Confidential, and not the book he thought others wanted to read. He didn’t think or care of any commercial success. In fact, he noted that he thought that it would get him banned from ever working in a kitchen again but that didn’t stop his honesty as a creator. We should do the same. Create the art for an audience of one, you.
If you want to follow me on Instagram, don’t. It doesn’t matter anymore.