Why I torched my Instagram account

You might be asking what do I mean by torched? Here’s how I’m defining it.

  • I manually removed all my followers.
  • I manually removed all my followings.
  • I deleted or archived all my posts and highlights.

Once I committed this virtual seppuku of my account, I felt like a horrible burden had been lifted off me.

Why did I do this?

1. My account still looked and felt inauthentic.

I had removed about 10,000 ghost followers (manually) and got to about 1400 followers. At this point my engagement was 10% without even trying with hashtags or engaging with my audience which was pretty decent. I could get a 30% engagement if I posted a decent photo and engaged with my audience. What gnawed at me was different evaluations of my account comments being inauthentic. I used a calculator like this one. No matter what I did, folks from inauthentic DM groups would comment on my photos no matter what in the hopes that I would engage with them.

2. I was sick of the implied supposition that if someone commented and liked my photo, I owed them the same thing.

Seriously, is every photo awesome? I would look at photographs and see that they would get the same scores or hundreds of comments from the same people on the same kinds of photographs. I get that when you start out in photography you photograph the same thing lots in order to hone your craft, and because of the subtle differences in light, shadow and color. For influencers, photographers become a means to an end: a way to grow a following and a way to get engagement. This reduces the world to a mere photographic resource at the expense of story telling.

3. The interactions on Instagram are (on balance) not healthy, nor what I need.

I’m grateful for all the friends and positive interactions that I’ve had on Instagram. But if I weigh all the pros and cons, I’d have to say overall that my experience on Instagram has been a negative one. You run into so many people that are just using other people to get ahead – that’s simply not healthy.

As someone that is passionate about philosophy, I never found folks who combined philosophy with a love of taking honest photos.

4. There has to be a better way to build community.

Even in its early years, people like Lady Elizabeth Eastlake noted how photography created a motley republic of sorts that crossed barriers of class. There have existed “republics of photographers,” a sort of tribe, global in nature, bound by just the desire to chase light. I remember how in the 1990s travelers would make fast friends with just nothing more than a camera in common. Many think Instagram did this for the first time, but it did not. However, with early Instagram, it was very much possible to travel the whole length of the country and all you needed was an account to gain the hospitality of a stranger.

Now, moving into its 9th year and making Facebook billions last year, you have to wonder if you can even create community with an app so antithetical to it. Instagram has become an ad platform designed to turn your attention and by strip mining your life’s photos into profit. Whatever community is there flourishes despite this, but there really ought to be a better way.

How should photographic communities be really built in the 21st century?

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