Tommy Ku Photography

The thing about Instagram

A person shooting the sunset with a camera on tripod

From February 2020 to August 2022, I have been making daily posting on Instagram without stopping for a single day.

In this post I am going to describe my motivation of using Instagram, and what had changed over the 2 years that made me stop my daily posting.

For your TL;DR, I am not particularly pro or against Instagram for what it is.

Given that ads revenue is what drives company, it's bound to skew towards optimizing that, as opposed of what people generally want. Even the "likes", follower counts, and user engagements, are some metrics to play the Instagram "game".

Should it provide something I need, good I will post content for Instagram to continue farming attention of its users, otherwise, I don't really have to use Instagram.

My Instagram daily post collection

IG Monthly Best

Collection of best photos on IG, with dedicated short writings

156 More Days on IG and No More

Collection of photos I posted everyday on Instagram from Mar 01, 2022 to Aug 03, 2022

370 More Days on IG

Collection of photos I posted everyday on Instagram from Feb 24, 2021 to Feb 28, 2022

365 Days on IG

Collection of photos I posted everyday on Instagram from Feb 23, 2020 to Feb 23, 2021

Should I say "Instagram is dead"

People hanging out at Disneyland Resort Pier

Instagram is dead.
— a post that got chain-reposted on many stories I saw on IG

I love to see people putting out bold statement without explanation, especially when they are still actively using Instagram. Now here's my take on this statement.

See, they gotta play the "game". They used to be called IG-er and later called Influencers. They influence people, grab their attention and spin it one way or another towards some agenda set by Instagram or their sponsors.

When we say something is dead, that means it no longer exists. A kid that was once small and cute had grown up to a muscular bearded middle age man, we don't say the kid is dead. He'd simply grown up and became something he wasn't.

Instagram used to be for posting square photos only, then there were rectangular photos, stories (Snapchat…), and now short videos called reels (TikTok…). Oh and ads. More and more of ads. I could scroll down my timeline using the mobile app and see more ads and suggested accounts than actual posts by the people I follow.

Nowadays Instagram allows for more forms of content, with an emphasis towards a specific form (Posts < Stories < Reels). How can we tell? Well there are way, way more ads on posts than stories, than on reels. Given the same amount attention people are driven to reels to avoid ads, thus traffic to posts and stories suffer.

Yet one still wouldn't say Instagram is dead. It has changed form for sure. But the posts and stories are still there. Just like the smile of a middle age man still reassemble the same of his once cute past. He's not dead.

Therefore I wouldn't say Instagram is dead. If I don't like something about it, I break up with it like in a bad relationship, but I wouldn't say the person I broke up with is dead.

Then, what about saying "as good as dead" instead?

Should I say "Instagram is as good as dead"

Sunrise from Shek Lung Kung

You can also say "as bad as dead", whatever floats your boat.

As Instagram is only as good as dead, the platform, the creators and the audience are all there. By re-installing the app, it can easily be revived from its "as good as dead" state.

Think of it like a bad break up. After having deleted all contacts with the other person, from time to time there's still some flashbacks reminding one how the "good old time" was like.

Then say hmm, it's not really that good.

When I first begun seriously using Instagram, it was for sharing the photos I have taken and to discover what others had been doing for inspiration.

My project to make a daily posting every day did not start because I wanted to. It simply kept itself going as I kept shooting.

For someone starting out, shooting many photos of various geners is a good way to figure out what works and what doesn't. The platform also connects one with many other creators. This happens to coincide with what Instagram wants from its users—content and attention.

From there, a shift towards stories happened. Unlike posts which basically stays there forever, stories expire in 24 hours. The short-lived stories pushes content creators to produce content in a faster pace, such that the audience invest more attention on the app itself, and the ads that Instagram sneak in between stories.

Fine, the app has grown yet it's still the same thing. I could have posted and refer to that post on a story. Stories live for only 24 hours, which fits well into my theme of daily postings.

Now there's reels. I can hardly find how it fits into my primary way of content sharing which is posting static images. Maybe I can shoot some videos of how my gears work, or how I visited different locations to shoot.

But wait, since when did I deviate from doing what I want to do to doing what Instagram wants me to do? Maybe it's time to break up with it.

From the time this idea popped up until that actually happened, I began to notice the platform had become quiet.

Should I say "Instagram is a dead silence"

Beautiful sunset from HKG Aircraft Maintenance Area

Instagram was good at skewing your behavior towards what they want you to do. From posts, to stories, to reels. Nothing except the posts was what I originally wanted.

Yet the platform incentivizes users towards stories and reels by reducing the exposure of posts and flood the users' feeds with ads.

One big part of Instagram is the feedback system. The audience interacts with the content creator with "likes", reactions, comments and shares.

This feedback system encourages constant and frequent posting because older posts very quickly disappear from the long feed. Feedbacks stop coming after half a day or up to a couple days.

Then reels came. Things just stopped. The ads-to-content ratio had became too high that there's nothing meaningful except ads, despite I was following over 1,000 accounts.

My posts stopped getting views and feedbacks as the attention of the audience had been directed towards alternative types of content such as stories and reels.

By shouting into the noise-scape created by ads, I couldn't hear back anything. There was only a silence.

What's after Instagram?

"Fear not, let the past pass."

Just posting everyday is easy. I was sick for the whole July and didn't shoot a single photo, yet I still posted every day. I worked 10 hours a day and had my heart broken and I still posted every day.

Then the true gem becomes buried in all the noise. The bad drives out the good, I have posted too many.

I want to engage in projects, try new things, instead of being pressured to create more or less the same content just to post them every day.

While I thought I should at least stay on Instagram to be inspired, I realized it's pushing me more junk than useful content. Whatever you deem "IG-able" are all that I see, and they no longer inspire me.

Actually, posting/consuming things that are "IG-able" is perhaps the most efficient way to kill creativity as it promotes sameless instead of new, different attempts.

For me, there are several unfinished photography projects and some photography-related projects in the making which I will pursue now that my capacity had been freed up.