I quit Instagram. I deleted my account, and it’s not the end of the world but the start of new communities and opportunities.
Instagram isn’t for me, not any longer. I decline becoming a product. I quit on principle. Instagram, as a social network, is in part about sharing, and Instagram the company, doesn’t appear to want anything to do with sharing, as evidenced by how the Terms of Service constructs me as product, rather than a a contributor within a broad user base:
To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. — from Instagram’s Terms of Service.
Digitalization of music, film, photography–these have made the ability to share, enjoy, take, steal all the more easy to do–on a global scale. This is the reality of the world I live it. Companies need to make money. However, is making money the core mission of the organization or is monetization an outcome of carrying out well a core mission? When Instagram/Facebook can answer this with conviction, they could become a profitable, value-based organization.
Innovative social media companies in the new connected, mobile age need to find ways to invent how to make money –and I do think they can do this successfully, if they realize what galvanizes collections of diverse individuals into communities, and how these communities will contribute to shared visions that place value on users as partners rather than users as product or customer. Bring value to the user-base and leverage that user base in some shared mission. Users are part of the company’s infrastructure itself–not outside of it. User service isn’t quite the same as customer service or brand or product management.
I support the move toward individuals as arbitrators of creative taste, of our own “likes” and “dislikes,” and accessibility does this. It shifts the onus to individuals to decide their relationship to creative expressions that pleased them. I like the fact that there are few barriers between what I produce and those who enjoy what I produce. It’s a mistake to think that everyone with an account on Instagram is using it for the same reasons or using it in the same ways.
When I was writing for literary journals (magazines), the circulation was small, as these tend to be housed/funded in colleges and universities. A few hundred subscribers, a few thousand subscribers maybe. Often it was other writers writing for writers. That’s a closed loop–and not all that pleasing or satisfying for me. So being able to write and photograph to share my work directly here or on a photo-sharing network does away with that middle step, that barrier, and I enlarge my circulation, through my own efforts by engaging networks. I find pleasure and value in receiving feedback directly from those who have an interest and follow my work. There’s agency here in how and why we create in an interactive, networked world–not just what we create.
There’s really just three reasons for why I make photos and write: 1. I find pleasure in expressing myself verbally and visually, 2. I find creative and intellectual satisfaction in asking questions and trying to better understand my world, and 3. I want to please others, those who see/read what I do, by moving them either intellectually or emotionally. That’s it. Sharing on-line makes #3 possible and brings with it consequences.
Where I share and how I contribute to a community is important to me. It’s the heart of creative expression: communication and community. I don’t want to create or photograph in a private world of my own, isolated from others, removed from the influences of others. I believe humans have, innately, a deep desire to share, to express, to understand and be understood. And we create to engage these in ourselves and others, whatever our means or mode of creation.
We create to reach ourselves and each other. Sometimes this means moving through the barriers of our own making as much those of others. Sometimes there’s clutter in our way. Sometimes we haven’t the vision or courage to see our desires through. Other times, we fall short of the accountability to stand behind mistakes, learn, and move on.
Pockets of users–really, content providers– took a flexible app that made community/network building easy and forged new ways of imagining what a little photo/social app could do. This was behind the meteoric rise of Instagram, its popularity among people like me in late 2010. With the Facebook purchase and ToS debacle, Instagram over-reached and was slapped back. The real blunder though was clearly on display: a mission to make money. Instagram/Facebook doesn’t get community–.