There’s no secret that most of us are frustrated with Instagram these days. Not only it stopped supporting photographers, but it actually seems that the only demographics it is interested in supporting is advertisers. It is a free platform for users, so you actually sell your soul and your eyeballs to people who paid this platform to show whatever they want. If you want to participate in the game, you also have to pay, so your content will be shown to people who don’t particularly want to see it.
I think most of us remember the days when you just wanted to make pictures and share them with friends and people who are into the same kind of photography. It was simple and honest exchange of visuals and opinions. Like a small digital portfolio where people could see what you actually like to shoot. Stories took away from the grid, so now we have to see what is everyone eating every day, and seasonally either people sitting on terraces with decent views, or skiing, or hiking, or doing weird yoga poses, that you’re not sure they would practice so relentlessly if it was not to show off on instagram.
Then it became a place for video creators.
Yes, I agree that videos have the ability to show life better than photos, you can make the most boring thing epic with some clever footage and you can show your lunch in a whole new way, but it also created the scene for forced videos that never had to be videos, just because the platform demands. The amount of junk that we get to see every day on Instagram today is appalling. Every time I open the explore page, there are some people trying out endless filters, and every time I press the button NOT INTERESTED nothing changes, next time it’s different people but doing the same stupid shit. Who are these people and why would I be interested to know what is the first letter of the name of their crush? That’s a mystery to me as well.
No matter how much I tried to build the profile focusing on the beautiful landscapes on my instagram, no picture will ever get as many likes as a random selfie that I took in some bathroom mirror. That’s just how it works. How many times I receive DMs from people who just want to hit on a girl with pretty face (there aren’t even many photos of my face on the profile), and yet it is mostly that. Go some other places, there is a million of half-naked people there looking for those sort of comments.
And another thing is that even though you can sort of zoom in into photos on instagram, they are just so small. It was always normal to shoot landscapes horizontally, that’s why it is called the landscape orientation, but because the platform decided it’s actually going to give space to photos best viewed on the phone, we moved to shooting them vertically. Now every time you have to stop yourself and wonder, can this be shot vertically, or can this be cropped efficiently later on? I don’t think that this is the thing that you should be focusing on when capturing the moment.
What are the things I am looking at on instagram these days? Still trying to support my friends, the creatives, but most of them sort of gave up and didn’t post more than 8 photos in 2022. Looking at people making art, because art is inspiring and art is life. Looking at people visiting places in Saudi Arabia and the region that I want to visit. Not looking at epic photoshopped skies over Burj Khalifa, not looking to buy pants that stretch in every direction, not looking to become a lord in Scotland, but if I was not to go and dig deep into search by tags and locations I would never see what I actually want to see.
A few months back I had an existential crisis, thinking that maybe removing all the dead weight followers will help with the engagement, so I eliminated 1200 accounts from my profile – people who either are just bots or shops, or never engaged into anything I do, or I just have no clue who this is and why would they follow me. Long story short, it didn’t improve the engagement one bit. When a few years back normal would be to get 10% likes of the number of your followers, now it’s maybe 2%. With every picture it decreases to be honest. Maybe I just suck at photography… but let me tell you that once I was food poisoned, lying dead weight on the couch in the living room. There were guys cleaning the building windows across from mine, so I filmed them through the dirty window without getting off the couch, and that is the most popular post on instagram – more than 100k views. The picture that made me thousands of bucks on Getty images sales, barely has 100 likes on Instagram.
I felt like giving up and abandoning posting anything, since it doesn’t bring joy anyway, but some people told me that there are still a few of them who look forward to seeing my images and reading my witty writings, and it motivates them to create something themselves. So perhaps that’s the only reason I’ll stay, but frankly speaking there is nothing really holding me there.
Now, the change is not always good, and the older we get the more we miss the good old things that made us feel great or actually did make us feel something… Instagram will never be what it used to be, let’s just admit that. And yes, I am grateful that I had a few moments of glory thanks to it, like winning a trip to Iceland with Dream Photo Tours, or meeting a bunch of amazing individuals who definitely brought joy to my life, but these days are covered in dust just like Dubai right now.
A year ago Glass application was launched as a response to photographers’ frustrations with Instagram, TikTok and the likes. That is the place where you just get to share your photography. No ads, beautiful feed, EXIF data, ability to zoom in and see every photo in details but most importantly a wonderful community of people who just want to enjoy the art of capturing images. And yes, you have to pay 20 bucks to be a part of the community, but seriously people, it is a price of two cups of coffee from Starbucks that you would buy without hesitation if you were running out of energy… and aren’t we all running out of energy here?
Glass has categories that you can browse through when you feel like you want to see some street photos, or landscape photos, or action photos, or portraits, or even self-portraits, and not selfies, you get me? I bet you forgot how it feels when someone leaves a genuine comment under your photos, or asks you details about how this was shot, and not just scrolls past your image (by Allah if they even get to see it anywhere and anyhow), but spend time to appreciate and look at what you created.
Having EXIF data is great for people who know how to use their cameras, and you can tell right away if it’s a true image or someone is trying to trick you with editing. Now, there is nothing wrong about digital creations of photoshop or other editing apps if that’s the story you want to tell, but what I dislike is that people deny it.
I keep telling people about this great platform, and yet they would rather be bombarded by millions of ads and god forbid something ever stops working on your insta, or it gets hacked, you’d never be able to get a response from a human being, while on Glass you can just write to Tom Watson and he will listen to your ideas and opinions on how to make this place better.
In any case, it is always better to be a part of the VIP club than yell in a crowd of yelling people where nobody listens to each other.
The choice is yours, and there is no two things that suit everybody, but I am glad to be a part of Glass community, and I hope it lives long and brings me joy and motivates me to go (or stay in but) shoot something.