Ten Reasons to Hate Instagram

Ten Reasons to Hate Instagram

Every change that Instagram has introduced since it went mainstream has been a step backwards for photographers. It's reached the point that, although I still post a few times a week, my love for the platform died a long time ago, and watching it stumble towards nothing but selfies and adverts is heartbreaking. Here are my biggest gripes, in no particular order.

Notifications

The notification system is next to useless. Not being able to filter out comments from likes makes the tab itself completely unusable and why this hasn't been addressed is incomprehensible. What's worse is that if you have a couple of other accounts set up on your device, there are some notifications (on the iPhone at least) that you simply cannot turn off. 

The Algorithm

The switch from a chronological feed to one driven by algorithms was the first nail in the coffin, marking the start of the platform's demise as a means of sharing photographs. At first, I didn't mind too much but recently my feed has become garbage, gradually worsening with each month. Of the 480-odd people that I follow, I see the same 30-40 users, and almost nothing else. If I browse for 10 minutes and then pick up my phone for another scroll an hour later, it only takes a few minutes before I start to see the same posts again. Another example: about six months ago, I started following @fursty, an outdoor/wilderness photographer with a very distinctive style and more than a million followers. He posts about four or five times a week. I've yet to see a single one of his photographs in my feed. Instead, I'm stuck with the same 30-40 users mentioned above. How the algorithm has ruined my feed so comprehensively is really quite impressive, and I know I'm not the only one suffering.

Time Travel

Here's a quick sample of my feed: 3 hours ago, 3 days ago, 9 hours ago, 2 days ago, 4 hours ago, 2 days ago, advert, 9 hours ago, 3 hours ago, 3 days ago, 2 days ago, 10 hours ago, 5 hours ago, advert.

Seeing posts from three days ago (occasionally more) is confusing. Sometimes people are announcing time-sensitive information which I respond to with a comment, only to discover that the moment is long gone.

Hashtags

Counting hashtags is an almighty pain in the backside. Adding a "number of hashtags used" counter would require very few lines of code but it seems that no one at Instagram is particularly interested in making your life easier. The consequence of exceeding the completely arbitrary figure of 30 hashtags — a number that you stumble upon by accident — is a post with no caption. This mysterious punishment for breaking this mysterious rule is as frustrating as it is random.

Boosted Posts Kill Engagement

Last year I paid for my first Instagram boosted post in order to advertise some parkour photography workshops that I was running. It's worth noting that once you have paid for a boosted post, from then on, all of your non-boosted posts will take a nosedive. This is a ploy to make you miss the level of engagement that you once had and nudge you towards paying out again. If you've never paid Instagram money, give it a second thought before you decide it's worth taking the hit.

This Post Is Performing Better than 85 Percent of Other Posts

Instagram makes sure to tell me when a certain post is doing better than 85 percent of all of my other posts. Bizarrely, it seems that every single time I post, that post is doing better than 85 percent of all of my other posts. This mathematical impossibility starts to grate after a while.

Spam Comments

"Nice pic!" "Cool!" "This is the best one!" Spam comments have dropped off significantly since Instagram killed off Instagress, but they're still out there, and they're still infuriating.

Reposting

What Instagram conveniently forgets to remind its users is that you can only upload content that is your own. This means that every time an account reposts an image or a video without getting permission in advance, it is breaching copyright. There is no in-app repost function because Instagram knows that it's at odds with its own terms of service. Instead, they've passively permitted a culture of reposting that's built on the assumption that everyone is entitled to use everyone else's content.

Recommended Posts

Recommended posts. Give me strength. As if our feeds weren't awful enough as it is — a brutally narrow selection of users, an excess of adverts, and a confusing lack of chronology — they are now being diluted further with posts that we didn't know we didn't want to see. The response on social media has been far from great but you can bet that there are more than enough teenagers on the platform who will lap up this new feature to the extent that the opinions of Instagram's more discerning users (i.e., photographers and filmmakers) are completely irrelevant. What's worse is that Instagram's AI has no means of identifying freebooted content so you can be sure that "community hubs" flogging badly designed t-shirts and taking sneaky bungs for sponsored posts will benefit massively, meaning that real photographers suffer even more than they did before.

Freebooting

Which brings me to freebooted content. Instagram doesn't care that countless people's images are being used without permission, in breach of its own terms of service, and lining the pockets of unscrupulous entrepreneurs who have realized that this is much easier than printing money and has zero consequences. Freebooted images and videos are viewed hundreds of millions, if not billions, times every day. If you see someone else's work being freebooted, reporting it yourself is impossible. Reporting your own work being stolen is a deliberately confusing and tortuous process. What's worse is that Instagram even promotes many of these posts in their "videos you might like" feature. Fortunately for Instagram, very few of their users are photographers or filmmakers who understand how their work is being exploited as otherwise people would be leaving the platform in droves.

Instagrammers, Not Photographers

At its inception, Instagram was a platform for photographers and enthusiasts. By contrast, it is now a platform for Instagrammers and advertisers. Unless you've already carved yourself a following of tens of thousands of fans, you'll need to play a very specific game of posting once or twice a day, keeping up to date with the most effective hashtags, creating endless stories, and commenting on other users' posts. Content is now secondary to strategy.

Despite all this, being the hypocrite that I am, I will keep posting a couple of times a week, and getting that brief thrill of validation and dopamine when I see the number of likes creeping up. Let me know your biggest gripes in the comments below, and remember: just because you use something for free that benefits you greatly, doesn't mean that you can't moan about it.

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58 Comments

Tim Behuniak's picture

Totally agree, especially with your last remark: Instagrammers, not Photographers. This is what drives me craazzzyyy! Almost daily I see poorly lit photos with terrible composition and oversaturation, etc. outperforming top-notch images by professional photographers. I truly believe that Instagram has led most everyone to believe that he/she is pro without any understanding of the art, or what it means to be a professional, which downgrades the perceived difficulty of a professional photographer's job and worth. Sigh.

Robert Nurse's picture

I guess this is the price of advancement. Technology makes it easier for anyone to take a picture and publish it. But, those that truly know the art and what goes into it will still have the eyes and ears of those responsible for serious publication.

Aaron Mello's picture

You mean the oversaturated sunrise and sunset photos that get shared on huge hubs aren't good photos?

Mark Holtze's picture

I wouldn’t worry about what’s popular vs what is not. You as a photographer can appreciate good work and you can show your appreciation. It’s the social media revolution where everybody is a filmmaker and photographer for subscriptions and followers. That won’t undo great work and I think you guys do a good job of keeping relatively craft focused.

That said I agree with your points in the article.

Julien-Pier Belanger's picture

This is quite pedantic. Sorry. But you are referring to which Instagrammers? Because there are a plethora of amazing photographers on Instagram.
Andrew Kearns, Michael Flugstad, Alex Strohl, Forrest Mankins, Devonart_, Chuck just to name a few.
And those are all ranking pretty well compared to the mass.
And what are you considering "professional" images? What do you consider poorly lit, oversaturated and poor composition?
Most of it is just a matter of taste and cannot really be quantified.
The proof is, without wanting to be offensive, I find your photos to be all of the above since they do not reflect my idea of those concepts.
And this is not meant to be mean. Just to put things in perspectives.

I heard old dogs in my days of youth complaining about digital photography killing the art of the trade, then it was cell phones, Facebook, Instagram, Photoshop, blah blah blah and yet, photography is alive and well. Only more accessible

Tim Behuniak's picture

I agree, but not sure you're understanding my point. There are a ton of amazing photographers on Instagram. I guess when I hear a friend say, "look I can take an amazing picture too, especially because it gets 'x' amount of likes on Instagram," although said picture is by no means a good photograph, but rather a pretty scene, it drives me a little crazy. (please excuse the run-on sentence, haha.) I'd rather not start blurting out Instagrammers who I think lack little photographic skill but yet seem to be valued for their photos, but I don't think it's difficult to find. I get it, art is subjective. Everyone has his/her own taste. But I also believe there is a fine line between a beautiful photograph, in which the photographer has carefully and consciously thought out elements such as light, color, composition, etc.; and a snapshot, in which the person behind the lens simply clicks a "cool" or "pretty" sight and moves on. I think that to the the non-art community these lines become more blurred every day.

"look I can take an amazing picture too, especially because it gets 'x' amount of likes on Instagram,"
The proper response, especially to a friend, is a snarky "McDonald's sells more cheeseburgers than anyone in the world, they're still sh*t".

Gabrielle Colton's picture

So true. I tried boosting a post once and it really did affect my IG negatively, was so frustrating. The fact that it's so vast and endless users drives me crazy too, I don't even scroll through it anymore, but still, post my own work and try to support other photographers on it. I have to say it is a good way to find local models and other artists in your are though.

Use Twitter and create lists.

Aaron Mello's picture

I've been on IG since 2010? 2011 maybe? I don't remember exactly but I didn't utilize it to its full potential until much later. I put the 30 hashtags in a separate comment, trying to build my following. Every time I post I may get between 10-15 new followers but within 48 hours 95% of them unfollow and the lingering ones either never interact or will drop off within the same week. This is just infuriating when trying to build my ORGANIC following, asking questions in some posts for engagement (which doesn't warrant much for responses) but it still happens. I've been hovering at the same amount of followers for so long it doesn't seem worth it to post once a day, or a few times a week because it's just the same thing. I do my part, I like, I comment, I follow new accounts. The whole automated BS just turns me off from posting in general.

michael buehrle's picture

i agree. i gain a few each post and then i lose the same amount later in the week. i post once a day now maybe. i follow all the "gain new followers" rules people put out there but nothing. and how does a person with 2 posts get 800 followers ? most likely fakes.

Aaron Mello's picture

It's hard to gauge success from other accounts. There are so many that I come across with 50k-150k followers but seem to hover around 1k likes? Seems like an awful ratio to me. I don't care if I have 200 followers or 2000, it'd just be nice to get better involvement whether through my followers likes or (real) comments from them. I guess that algorithm certainly doesn't help either, especially for those who don't actively engage with my photos. Most of my new posts only get less than 5-10% engagement from my "normal" followers, everything else seems to come from the hashtags. I guess I don't get why you follow an account if you're not interacting. To each their own?

David Love's picture

I boosted on Facebook one time and all it proved is that without their meddling I would be averaging 1k likes per post or more. I'm not paying them $300 every post so they will let people that want to see it, see it. They usually wait til you've gotten a large following and then hold 95% of your followers hostage for boost ransom.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Very cool work, David. Reminiscent of the Marvel cards I used to collect as a child in the 90s. Thanks for bringing back some good memories with your work.

Matthias Dengler's picture

I could not agree more. 10/10 points absolutely correct.
I quit the platform for more than a month.
but I returned, as I use it to network and to find models for my shoot. It's my number one photography communication platform. Other than that, for real photography it is not suitable, unless you are already an influencer. Trying to catch up with them as a hopeless fight and never ending circle. Instead, focus on your photography and to improve it.
Post on your private facebook account and your work will be seen by people you really interact with.
I think, that's the best advertising online, besides flickr and google of course.

Neville Ross's picture

There's also deviantArt, although your mileage may vary on how you use it.

Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

I feel the same. There's no other platform?

Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

I really have to inform myself better. The fact that I didn't do that is the reason why we all complaint about Instagram instead of simply change platforms. In the end, the internet freedom and democracy is sabotage by our habits and laziness. We only can blame ourselves. Generally speaking, of course.

I, frustrated about the feeds lately, stopped following the majority of people I regularly follow before so the feedback should center in a thin range of most wanted at my election. Didn't work. At the end, I don't scroll, I go directly to the pages of people who interested me and after that, I make some over the world search to discover new things.
But overall I find that the platform is so full of trash that I don't enjoy it anymore and posting every day feels like a job.

I think the correct thing to do is accept what it is today Instagram instead of moaning about what was and what we would like it to be. Use it for business or fun if it suits us that way. Mostly I think for business and chose another more professional photographers oriented platform so we can feel again at home.

I have to say that for business, anyway, the platform that reigns over all is Youtube. Requires more work but if you do things correctly, is worth it. So is true that all the platforms help each other, and people who are dedicated have everything. But I'm not an internet business person, I'm a photographer and that work is a pain in the ass. If I find that I can't survive without it (I recently opened my studio), the only thing that can improve the whole picture is to find a way for all this time and work, social media dedicated, to be fun. Youtube comes into play again... We'll see.... :)

Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

And thanks for the recommendation Augusto

Samuel Zeller's picture

Ello is still alive and doing well. In fact, I'm leaving my 16.5k Instagram account to post exclusively on Ello (my account is here: https://ello.co/samuelzeller). You should read their manifesto: https://ello.co/wtf/resources/pbc/

Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

WOW this is perfect! Thanks!!!!

Next article suggestion: 10 reasons to hate people who think they NEED Instagram
Just f'ing leave it already. It's pathetic watching a bunch of want-to-be famous people crying about how the cool kids won't let them in their group. Just leave. It's obvious that Instagram doesn't want you. If Instagram's policies and SOP's are such that a person interested in succeeding simply can't without following a very specific formula that IG has determined, then IG doesn't want YOU. IG wants whatever THAT is. So, either sell your soul and be THAT, or be YOU and just leave it the f alone.
Also, Instagram was NEVER for photographers. Instagram was for mobile photographers (at best).

Christian Lainesse's picture

Let's all move back to Flickr

I really hope now that Oath owns the brand it doesn't kill it but makes it better. Or at least puts it back to where it was before Yahoo (read: Melissa M) messed it up with ads in photostreams.

Samuel Zeller's picture

Let's move to Ello, it's great now.

Christian Lainesse's picture

Thanks for pointing it out, I did not know about it and I will check it out.

This is a mighty fine and articulate moan. Please continue to inform and let us know how the dark arts of instagram and other social manipulators are messing up in what used to be 'kind of cool' platforms.

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