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INSTAGRAM SUCKS… the life out of you

My love for Instagram started in late 2014 when it became the outlet for all those amateur photographs that were sitting in my camera roll. I posted six pictures on the first day! It was the perfect place to express myself creatively without any shame or pressure attached to it. A few years later I realised that I could have an artist account. I loved Instagram and I loved art, so what would be more fun than having an Instagram account dedicated to my art? At first I approached my artist account with the same free creativity that I was used to having with my personal account but I soon realised that my artist account needed a more professional look and feel. No problem! I can be professional, so I crafted my profile into something that showed off my art with cohesion while sparking the sense of wonder and peculiarity that runs throughout my work. It was like curating an exhibition and at the same time archiving my artistic journey.

I loved being part of the Instagram art community - getting feedback and being inspired by other artists through the app was a dream come true for a shy introvert like myself. Participating in art challenges was where the sense of inspiration, the community, and encouragement that comes with it, was most evident. It was great!

When the pandemic hit and I struggled to find a full time job, I dedicated myself to building my artistic career. Suddenly I realised that my social media following needed to grow (and quickly) if I hoped to get exposure in the current social climate. What also became apparent was that EVERYBODY was now getting onto social media and with the dreaded algorithm change it was so much more difficult to get your posts seen. Now companies with a dedicated social media team were flooding people’s feeds with constant activity. It made it tough to be a small artist account on Instagram.

But I wasn’t going to let that stop me! I mean, other small businesses were doing it - why couldn’t I? I researched what I needed to do to keep up. I ended up trying to post everyday or at least four times a week, with one or two stories a day, a reel now and then, engaging with other users everyday, not to mention posting at the perfect time and using all the right hashtags. It felt like I constantly either needed to be on Instagram or be working on something for Instagram. And you know what? It messed me up.

The most obvious problem with Instagram these days is that as a one-woman business it’s not possible nor sustainable to keep up with big companies.

But like an addict I felt as though I needed it. I would scroll through my feed and be inspired [read shamed] by seeing all my favourite artists posting and I would feel the pressure to keep trying. How could I be a visual artist if I couldn’t gain a following on a visual social platform?

Although, a huge problem was that I was really struggling with my art. I had so many ideas and wanted to try them all out but I ended up not being in love with any of them. My own art was boring me. But I was still creating just so that I had something, anything, to post. At first I didn’t see the connection…

The most obvious problem with Instagram these days is that as a one-woman business it’s not possible nor sustainable to keep up with companies. The amount of time I was spending on social media heavily cut into the time for my artistic process. Not only that, but I was deliberately aiming to create work that didn’t take long so that I could have a constant stream of new content on my feed. I didn’t delve into bigger ideas because of the amount of conceptualisation they would need - you can’t really post pictures of ideation. What’s more, Instagram was distracting me. I don’t mean that I would check Instagram when I should be doing something else. That wasn’t such a problem for me. I mean that I was getting too much inspiration and getting distracted by new ideas everyday. I have a penchant for novelty and I love generating ideas, so when I had an endless scroll of things to look at, it was inspiration overload! I couldn’t go one day without having a new idea for an art piece or a product. And when I have a new idea, I like to jump on it with the energy that comes with the spark of inspiration. But that meant that I would leave projects halfway through to experiment with a new one, only to never come back to finishing the old one or to be trying to juggle too many at once. Like I said, it messed me up. But wait, there’s more!

I struggle with anxiety and feeling the pressure of needing a social media presence, while being very much aware of my struggles to get anything done, had left me in a tightly wound ball of doom. I could not take it anymore! So I quit. I stopped making myself feel like I had to post everyday. I stopped making things purely for social media. I focused on things that I was passionate about and shared when I really wanted to. I stopped worrying about my follower count. And most importantly, I stopped scrolling through Instagram for ‘inspiration’. Instead I focused on making real use of all the inspiration I had already received. And I feel so much better for it!

Even though I feel a little guilty for not having a new illustration to go with this blog, I’ve made the decision to not publish any art that hasn’t gone through the full artistic process. I’m taking care of mental health first because I can’t create anything I'm proud of when my head is such a mess. And I want to give my followers quality over quantity. For a while I have been aware of (and complained about) the stream of constant crap that has become the internet. Not the whole of the internet, undoubtedly, but there are large enough pockets for it to be a nuisance. There are also small intrusions of crap into the areas of quality internet. I didn’t realise that by succumbing to the pressures of the algorithm I had become what I hate - a crap contributor.

So with that I say:

"Dear followers, please forgive me and please stand by for more quality art."

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