Why I'm distancing from IG as an artist
And why you should consider distancing and/or leaving too
an e-zine by Amor as Lucha
This e-zine was written for folks who follow me on IG and are curious about why i want to leave, as well as for other artists who are on the fence about IG. Why I've found instagram more harmful than helpful, and why I’m creating some distance, specifically as an artist/creative person.
while im criticizing IG, i'm not criticizing folks who use it, or the content that people i follow post, this is a criticism of IG as a for-profit social networking app.
This zine is primarily written from my own opinions and perspective, not meant to be a researched or exhaustive text. I do offer some links for reference throughout and at the end, which have helped me arrive at this moment.
I'm an artist who doesn't make art for a living, and doesn't depend on a social media following to make a living. This informs how i approach this topic, and i try to address this later in this zine.
i think it's imporant for other artists to question the capitalistic pressures that box us in and limit what being an artist has the potential to encompass. IG is one way this manifests.
My visions + missions (learning to) as an artist is to use art as a tool for reimagining what liberation looks like from a collective perspective and in community. And I'm learning the value of liberatory, abolitionist, leftist, radical cultural work and what this looks like for myself and the work required for connections & collaborations in the communities I'm part of.
What my experience was like in IG’s earlier years (1/2)
It was actually easier for other artists aligned with you to find your page, for your posts to show on their feed, and for your page to grow organically, regardless of how much time you put into posting.
Yet, some issues were there even then
- Easy to slip into negative thought patterns when you're a young artist and have less clarity around identity and sense of self as a creative person – such as comparing skills to that of other artists (This artist goes a little more into this (video))
- These may not be issues with instagram, or even social media, but more so existing under racial capitalism:
- Consumption-based behavior even with one another (content + products to be consumed). Constant pressure to make a hustle of our creative interests. Pressure to keep sharing - otherwise, are you even making art anymore?
- Individualism, the focus is individual profiles. IG was (is?) seen as a way to make it big and attain personal success. Celebrity/elitist culture through verified profiles and something to aspire to (these thoughts brought by this conversation via Haymarket!)
What my experience was like in IG’s earlier years (2/2)
- Because of how the app is set up, it makes it easier for people to support you as an artist mainly only if you have actual work to share
- But by only receiving support/praise when i posted something, it made me feel like i was only worthy of being noticed if i was producing a thing.
- Just as painfully, this was a reminder that I wasn't really in community with folks who weren’t taking their time to get to know me and my process. This in turn taught me that having this kind of support/back-and-forth with a creative community is so so important
- There was this unspoken pressure that the art work that got me noticed and drove traffic to my profile was the one i was supposed to stick to and not veer from. This was the case even for social-justice-themed art. I don't think we do this intentionally as 'audience', but it affects artists' ability to feel like they can be nuanced and complex and aren't just a product to be consumed
These aspects made it difficult to navigate IG in its early days, but since they were bought by Facebook in 2012, the app transformed at an accelerated pace into something even more focused on producing profit
For more details on IG features, as well as controversies and funding, check out Wikipedia's timeline
Shifts i noticed since IG was bought by facebook/meta
1) It basically transformed into a marketing tool – store, ads – having to spend money or (a lot) of time to be noticed and build an audience
- A lot of features seemed primarily geared for business owners, people that could put money into the app
- Many more ads, that are also creepily on point
- Which meant much more data was being collected from users, from DMs to how long you stay on the app (see what does ig know about me?), which is of course never directly communicated to users in accessible ways either
2) Policing and hiding of leftist, progressive, radical content. Shadow bans
- I’m not 100% sure that this wasn’t a feature prior to ig being bought, but it was definitely much more noticeable afterwards
- Mutual aid posts, fundraisers, stories and posts with political content are often shadowbanned - The amount of views my stories get when i post about my day vs when i share mutual aid posts or specifically leftist content is consistently imbalanced (I have less than 200 followers, 'day to day' stories have gotten close to 80 views, while political/mutual-aid stories have not gotten more than low 30s)
- Shortly after FB bought facebook, there's a couple controversies about photographer's accounts being deleted for showing pubic hair (source)
3) More content pushed on users to stay on the app for longer
- Started with the algorithm-impacted ‘explore’ page, followed by features created ‘stories’, and ‘reels’. 'Explore' and 'reels' are also set up in such a way where you never run out of content to see.
- Side note: these features were added to stay competitive with other social apps, not to add actual value to the app, which is a reminder that every feature is added to add profit and encourage continous usage
- More content pushed on users also means their attention is redirected to this extra content and less for what you share. It’s easier to feel bogged down and thus primarily engage through ‘likes’ or ‘reactions’, instead of actual conversations with one another
As of Dec 2022, it seems like there is a beta feature to allow people to take breaks but at this point, it's more of an empty gesture, according to this article
5) What i noticed this meant for me as an artist (1/3)
- Encourages artists/creatives to put in a lot of time and work just to stay on people’s feeds consistently - especially when the shift was made to be primarily a video-based app which meant your profile gets more views if you're making reels. Reels, video work is a whole other type of work that can also turn into several hours a week-worth of time
- Encourages folks who follow us/are in or could be in community with to engage with artists primarily through a piece\product, consumption perspective – I’m not sure that this originates with social media,but it’s definitely made worse/exacerbated by it
- Even outside of social media, at least in the large city i live in, many artist-geared events are primarily "market" or some other form of buy/sell exchange.
5) What i noticed this meant for me as an artist (2/3)
- Pressure to share our process (or monetize it, which is also encouraged by sites like Patreon, Substack, etc), when doing so can actually be pretty draining because it’s yet another thing to consume. IG is not set up to encourage reciprocity or authentic connection (maybe Substack and Patreon are better than this because there is not as much content to distract and there are options to post polls and replies)
- Marketing or monetizing all aspects of the artistic process is not necessarily "bad", it works great for some artists. But apps like instagram - because of its ubiquitousness (used by everyone and designed for users to be on it often) - make it seem like this is the only way to "be" an artist and engage with e/o, and in community... when it's not and it doesn't have to be
5) What i noticed this meant for me as an artist (3/3)
- Creates an expectation to put out art consistently, like fast fashion ('fast fashion' concept borrowed from Fran Meneses in this video). Must be churning out. With no regard to everything that it takes. For folks who do this as a marketing strategy, they may not get the same amount of value in return for their labor. But their labor keeps IG relevant - it helps keep other folks on their app, who are always being shown 'relevant' ads and providing usage information for ads, which all creates constant revenue for Meta
The way money + capitalism creates ubiquitous apps like IG and the impact of their features on the way we interact with one another is important to notice, name, react to. We all know facebook/meta has been under hella fire for all the mess they've been behind. The features i mention here that have been a big part of making IG 'profitable' are described from my pov, if you'd like to learn more specific details check out Is instagram dying? yes but for not everyone and not for the reasons you'd expect" - i don't fully agree with all suggestins here but their breakdown of features is helpful
Walking away from corporate social media isn’t enough but can be a start (1/2)
At very least want to help/contribute to offering different possibilities - a big reason i've made this zine
- not a perfect approach, when many folks depend on big social media
- Getting to miss content from folks i'm in community with or would like to be in community with, is the biggest loss for me. It has been the main reason i have been hesitant to do this. This is partly why i plan to check back every week (or maybe two weeks) or so to stay (semi) updated on what folks are up to, local events, happenings, mutual aid requests, etc and i don’t know that there’s an alternative currently
- I hope to not depend on the feed algorithm to tell me what to check/keep track of – maybe a spreadsheet with the accounts i want to keep track of, i will try this though it sounds cumbersome af lol
Walking away from corporate social media isn’t enough but can be a start (2/2)
- As I shift away from ig, some tools i will be using are free – Patreon, Mastodon. But my own ad-less website is not free
- Visions/dreams – collective hosting server space that is people-owned (location-based?)🤩 anywho~~/span>
- Walking away is much easier because i don't have a large audience i would risk losing which would impact my livelihood
Invitation – Exploring what else there is/there could be (1/3)
These are dipping-your-toes-in suggestions, a work-in-progress, and def not extensive!
So far (i hope) this zine has shown two possible directions for what it could mean to walk away from IG as artists:
- For artists making a living primarily through their art and thus engaging through selling products - as a reminder that artists are whole human beings, questioning toxic productivity/constinuous labor that we don't fully own
- For artists questioning the consumer/product relationship with community altogether - as a reminder that this isn't the only way to engage. What other alternatives could there be to connect with community in ways that question the role of racial capitalism and oppression, what can we do in the present? what is being done already?
Invitation – Exploring what else there is/there could be (2/3)
- If the thought of one day leaving social media sounds wild - consider taking extended breaks, longer than might feel comfortable at first (this idea borrowed from tatiana's article "Slow Social: The Call for a Mindful Digital Revolution"). And journal/note how it impacts your ability to show up in other parts of your life
- Alternative open-source tools that already exist
- De-centralized Open-source social media: Mastodon (twitter-like, which recently became popular after it was bought by ... dude), Pixelfed (instagram-like).
- Some issues still remain - like requiring ability to host and maintain servers + technical knowledge - but people have more control over what their social media can look like and how it can shift
- A lot of features for IG and coporate social networks, are added to make the apps more profitable, not necessarily to add social value to the app - what would it look like for features, infrastuctures (and all technology) to be informed by actual needs, that encourage deeper connection with one another? what if users had a say? and information about user privacy were more widespread?
Invitation – Exploring what else there is/there could be (3/3)
Prompts for artists/creatives
- How do you feel about apps like instagram? how do you think it has impacted your creativity and how you approach your work? how much more time would you have for your art if you didn't use it?
- With the understanding that we need to work to pay for basic life needs (at least if you're working class), what could we do in the present to encourage folks we're in community with to engage with our work as artists that is beyond selling merchandise?
- If you didn't have to worry about making a living off your art, what other art would you make? How could interacting with other artists AND people in your community on a regular basis beyond social media, one-on-one, in community, rooted in support, impact your work?
Wanna dive deeper? Here's other stuff you can watch/read/listen to (1/2)
- From an AMC session "#divestFromInstagram" - where the presenters broke down how much profit IG creates from our collecive content and prompted the audience: what if we could have this funding for our own communities? What would we build?
Wanna dive deeper? Here's other stuff you can watch/read/listen to (2/2)