My last ‘real’ photo uploaded to Instagram is this one, dated December 13, 2012. As I wrote here a few days later (in Briefly, on Instagram), I didn’t like how the company handled the whole situation surrounding the change of its Terms of Service, I rapidly got tired of Instagram’s “We’re changing the TOS / Okay, no we won’t” dance, and I was still bitter for the Facebook acquisition. So I stopped being an active user, like I said I would.
At the time it was, I confess, an uneasy decision. I liked using the service. I liked the occasional interaction with other users and the familiar faces. I liked the idea of using Instagram as a sort of visual diary, catching a certain day’s mood with a few snapshots and the aid of a bunch of filters. At the same time, I didn’t like the direction Instagram was taking with their Terms of Service, and I was not comfortable being part of something that is owned by Facebook — a company I utterly and openly detest. But caving after expressing my annoyance and disagreement would have been hypocritical on my part. I’ll look for alternatives, I told myself reassuringly.
And then something happened. After ten days or so without posting to Instagram, I wasn’t missing the experience.
I’m not saying I wasn’t missing the Instagram experience (using the app, using the service) — but the whole experience of happy snapping while on the go. It all came to me with a snowball effect. I realised that it had become more of an Instagram dependence than a form of expression. I realised how mechanical a habit it had been. I realised the cheapening effect it had on my photography in general. Posting to Instagram had turned into a meaningless daily hunt for the cool ‘Instagram moment’. And many people are okay with that; all of a sudden I realised I wasn’t.
That’s why I haven’t looked for an alternative since I left Instagram. I have realised I don’t need one. My Flickr and Momentile activity is enough for what I really need to share. And for what I want to share, which is something more selected and meaningful than quick snaps of insignificant things, hastily taken with my iPhone out of habit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the æsthetics of iPhone snapshots. What I realised is that taking these snapshots had become a habit, an act often performed in auto-pilot. Look at this — click. See that? — click. Street scene — click. Nice indoor atmosphere — click. Close-up of everyday object — click. And on and on in their seemingly-infinite variants. Catch the Instagram moment. Etc.
For me the act of photographing, after Instagram, feels ‘detoxed’. It feels, once again, something carried out more purposefully. It feels less serialised, less trivial. I still take snapshots with my iPhone, of course, but since the instant-sharing part is removed, the overall pace is different, each shot tends to be more careful, and the act of ‘taking a snap for the sake of it’ has definitely vanished.
Needless to say, these observations reflect a very personal experience, and there’s no need to read between the lines. I’m not suggesting you should follow my example and leave Instagram (or other similar photo-sharing social services). I’ve simply realised that what had started as another creative outlet, quickly became just a habit and little more. And habit and creativity are two words that usually don’t go well together in my book.