Social Media and why are we here, anyway

I have accounts on instagram (not so obvious) and Flickr (more obvious). I’ve been on Twitter for a long time, and during the week, apparently I celebrated 8 years on Reddit.

I also decided that what I really needed was a new blog. I have fond memories of things like photography board, meet ups, World Photowalk Day and looking at people’s blogs, in particular. There were some great ones knocking around Ireland 10 years or so ago.

When I started painting, I decided to use Instagram. I had mixed feelings about it but it did seem to be where most art, and watercolour and illustration was to be found. Deviantart exists and I had been sort of not using Flickr which was mostly photography anyway. I wasn’t overjoyed about Instagram. It had been on the go for a while, but was almost unusable on desktop. As somewhere to quickly snap a not terribly good drawing of a VW campervan whlie I was learning, it worked. I’ve happened across a lot of great artists/illustrators on it and it doesn’t look like a lot of them are anywhere else.

The problem is, Instagram has been unusable lately. I say that not as someone who occasionally posts there (because hey now, I am posting to Flickr too) but as someone who scrolls. If you pay attention to the Instagram world, you’ll know that the creators are up in arms. They are losing engagement. Reels are being pushed. They cannot get their output in front of the eyeballs of their followers except via followers. It is killing their conversion to sales, for example.

I don’t run my business via the social media platforms so for me, this isn’t really the issue. What is the issue is, I don’t get to see the people I follow. I wind up scrolling for ages to find things I like. The recommender system for Reels is undeniably awful. I wind up scrolling for ages looking for stuff that interests me. There isn’t a lot of it. People are frantically trying to game the system to get their content in front of me and I am getting trash.

My instagram feed should be almost 100% a mix of watercolour, illustration, photography, mountain/water sports and travel. There is quite a bit of Brittany and Switzerland there. My photo/stills feed tends in that direction. I don’t mind the recommendations there.

For Reels – which has a separate tab – it has been a giant disaster. I have spent 2-3 weeks telling it I am not interested in foster kitten videos, meme videos targeted at teenagers, housecleaning hints. It got the message about bee keeping which for some God forsaken reason, it had taken to recommending to me. The clips have the same dozen songs playing behind them. I am SICK to the teeth of them. And then some of them have a soundtrack written by the same robotic voice that honestly makes me want to stab myself. So I spend less and less time on the site. This disadvantages the artists I want to actively look at, and it means I spend less time seeing sponsored posts. Both creatives and advertisers lose out when Instagram pisses off its audience.

At the beginning of the week (25 July 2022), Adam Mosseri explained that really I wanted all this crap. 15000 people told him on Instagram they did not. I told him on Twitter I did not. A few days, he temporarily rolled back changes to feeds and the UI. That word “temporarily” is kind of noteworthy. Mark Zuckerberg stated during the week that Meta’s objective was to have 30% of content not come from the accounts I have actively chosen to follow across Meta’s platforms. I use three of Meta’s main products to some extent, namely WhatsApp, FaceBook (increasingly rarely) and Instagram. Someone needs to tell him that if he makes those unusable/unattractive to end users, he’ll have nothing to sell to advertisers. I’m not interested in the Metaverse at this stage because I expect it to be a horrible sucking mess of ads for products I don’t want and shite I never agreed to follow.

I get like 20 likes on Instagram for most of my drawings. I can live without the adoration and it’s like I will post less frequently there. In the meantime, more and more stuff will get hosted on Flickr (which I pay for and have done for a very long time) so that I can feed it here where a) it’s desktop and mobile friendly (Instagram: not desktop or tablet friendly). And I can talk about the things that interest/annoy/fascinate me about travel/photography/art.