September 5th, 2022 and I did a post on Instagram. It was a mixture of unintended consequences, stupidity and hopelessness. I’d been posting on the platform since January 2015 when I had lofty aspirations of becoming a motorsport photographer. It was driven by a thirst to be better at photography, to have a portfolio and body of work that would be a mixture of people and artistry and emulate the Darren Heath’s and Vladimir Rhys’ of the F1 paddock.
It didn’t take me long to realise that motorsport didn’t really do it for me. I love it, I really do, but I had some trials with a few people and while I got decent criticism, I was dispatched to a corner of a circuit, fire off shots of EVERY car, run to the next straight or bend, be aware of any incidents or accidents then back to the media centre, change cards and head back to another corner of the next race. Repeat until paid. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great thing if that’s what you adore and love, but I wanted to see iconic images such as those from Jamey Price and Drew Gibson and while they also have gone through the process, it wasn’t for me.
My way has never been traditional so I guess that’s whereI failed at it rather than it failing me. I’m crap at reading instructions, books of processes and education in the traditional manner. It has proven both a good and bad way of doing things. It’s good to question or ask questions but sometimes, you also have to realise, there’s a reason why things are done a certain way.
Instagram became a way of seeing what other types of photography were out there. It was a great way of being able to look for inspiration, experimentation and people on the platform were open to conversations. It was quite lovely.
Tik Tok, META et al
Roll forward to 2022 and my follower count had grown organically to around 7.5k. I didn’t have a strategy or grameplan for the posts, I just carried on doing it the way I’d done it since 2015. If I had been at an event or a shoot and it was relevant, I’d share it. I didn’t curate my account or tag a billion people on posts and while I’d occasionally do a story, that was about it. But short, sharp, punchy video became the ‘go to’ with Tik Tok’s arrival. Meta or Farcebook as I call it, decided to constantly change their algorithm in order to be ‘relevant’. We were no longer users to them, we were all creators, and some of us might be, but many people missed just being able to see their pals work.
It was a constant battle of the bots; scroll through and inadvertantly start a video of someone doing an unboxing? Instagram fills the feed with ALL the unboxing videos. If you don’t engage with it, you can watch how it is watching you but then you’re still on ‘their’ network, increasing their stats which will be used somewhere to bring in ad dollars for them. I got nothing. The enjoyment had gone, the finding exciting work on my own had gone and so I went. I just didn’t mean to do it the way I did. I deleted all my posts.
30 days notice
I had 30 days in which to decide what I might want to do before Instagram would permanently delete all my posts so, in true Alex fashion, I forgot about it for about three weeks. I went over to Vero to see how that was working as a platform. It’s quite good, I like the fact you can see hi-res versions of posts and in chronological order from the people you follow. A few others who had also questioned Meta, moved over too. I’m not a ferocious poster at the best of times and it seems that likes and comments and followers are genuine on the whole. Then I got a reminder from Instagram about approaching my 30 days.
At first, I wasn’t that fussed. In the early years, it was a great networking tool and as long as you used it as such, you could get work from it but it seemed that unless you’d already gone over 20k followers, you had to feed it 3 times a week, comment on EVERYTHING and curate your page. Frankly, nah. But I was happy to put the images back up. They were, if nothing else, a lot of memories. But, while you could delete them all at once, you have to repost them one at a time. I tried. I failed. By the end of the 30 days, I’d gone from about 1700 images to 150, about 300 followers had gone and that was it. I did a post that said as much, then a post about Vero and left, unsure if I’d return.
December 1st 2022 and (this was my wife’s idea) I’m posting 24 shoots in 24 days to refill my feed. I’m still going against the grain as it isn’t video, it isn’t unboxing anything and the captions are long form story format explaining what I was shooting, the story I had with it and that’s it. So far, so good. It’s kind of nice to be back online a little but for me, that is what I will be doing; a little.
I’ve neglected my website more than I should while taking this sabbatical but all of these platforms are only generating money for themselves so I’ll continue to use them on my own terms. Will I still be using Instagram or Vero or others in 2023?
“Social media is training us to compare our lives instead of appreciating everything we are. No wonder we’re all depressed.” – Bill Murray