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Why I Tried and Failed at Instagram

Social media can be tiring...(sorry...I had to...) ;-)

Social media can be tiring…(sorry…I had to…) ;-)

I’ve written before about how much I dislike my smart phone. And I really do. I don’t like it. I don’t get notifications on my phone and I try to use it as much like a regular, non-internet, semi-non-functioning phone most of the time. When I travel I find use in it so I can keep up with emails, but even that makes me a little queasy.

So, when I started hearing the word “Instagram” float around I was confused, as usual. I only found out how to download an app in September of this year. I only found out what an app was in June. So, needless to say, I’m usually behind on the times. Back in January this year I was with my friend Olivia and she managed to download Instagram on my phone. I only had a smart phone for a couple of weeks at that point. She showed me how to take pictures with it, how to download and upload pics from the internet. Basically, she set me up to be an Instagram QUEEN.

Of course, things didn’t actually happen that smoothly. I didn’t like it. I had my account, I figured out where the little IG button was hiding, and I clicked it every now and then. I managed to upload 50 pictures this year. I even got into a groove at one point, uploading daily. But that did not last long.

I was introduced to an internet culture that I had not properly experienced before. It isn’t just an Instagram thing. It isn’t, and can’t be, tied down like that. It is a way of using social media that I don’t find personally fulfilling, though there is nothing inherently wrong with it. I became disenchanted by: people uploading for the sake of getting views. People celebrating half naked pictures of young women without thinking about the consequences of celebrating that type of beauty in that way. People who are focused on trends instead of self-expression. And that, too, is my problem for not digging deeper. I found I was lacking time to invest in it, and it just didn’t suit me.

If someone is in this for the fun of it – have fun! Not everyone has to be so serious (nor should everyone be), and not everyone has to use IG or any other site for the potential to share art. In fact, that probably isn’t even the point of it. It is what it is, and what it is is probably not for me.

I saw some of the good side of Instagram as well. I saw the people who were doing amazing things with their phones, who were editing on iPhones and uploading to IG and getting the praise they deserved for their truly unique images. I even enjoy following certain people just to see their day to day lives. I like that kind of thing and don’t always have to be focused on Art. The biggest problem with me was that I don’t like to share my day-to-day life. I can be quite private, and wanted to use the platform to share my images. I actually think Instagram can be pretty darn cool, but I’m just not a very cool chick.

Sometimes it is easy to get sucked into the idea that if a social network exists, we must be a part of it. Join or perish. Tweet or die. Instagram or insta-gone.

I felt that push. I created an account even though I didn’t have any interest in it. I thought it was the right thing to do (right for who, though?). And in the mess that was my Instagram experience, I learned a valuable lesson about myself: I would rather have exactly ZERO Instagram followers and not worry about fitting in than to feel the pressure of social media to conform. I still love social media. I love interacting with people. I love making those human connections. I love the feeling of knowing that I can talk to a group of supportive and loving individuals should the occasion arise. What I do not like, however, is the pull of social media to be BIGGER than before, or to gain more followers exponentially.

A lot of this comes down to the idea that we can choose positivity in our lives. We can choose to focus on the good rather than the bad. We can choose to see the beautiful side of life. And I found that Instagram was something that continually presented a side to life that I would rather be blind to, and so I stopped looking. Simple as that. It is no one else’s problem but my own, and for that I am grateful.

{ 19 } Comments

  1. Joe Martin | November 8, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    A good read.

    I’m using social media at the moment for a project entitled “Hashtag to be Heard” and am investigating the highs and lows of self promotion and our attitudes towards the visual form in an increasingly ‘connected’ society.

    Thanks for posting.

    Hope you’re well,


    Joe Martin. x

  2. Faith | November 8, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Great post, Brooke. I feel that way about Facebook and keep wanting to delete my account, but I hang in because I feel like I “have” to… hmmm…

  3. Chelsea Knight | November 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I relate to this so well. I always get stuck in the idea that unless you share a selfie everyday or update with a witty tweet, you’re failing at social media and being popular and deserving of recognition. Sharing little details of my personal life never felt right. Making “vlog” style videos has never worked. I feel like “who the heck cares about what I do in my spare time…” so then I try and then just drop everything, again, and again. I’m even wary to update IG with anything but my art work. I don’t want to see my ugly face everyday, who else would want to? I think your ability to disconnect yourself from this mad digital world is one of the many fantastic things that sets you up for success in your work. And I envy is, but it’s not impossible to attain. Maybe all of us photogs and artists need to camp for week and shake off everything holding us down. Makes me miss my friends parent’s cabin up in Colorado…*sigh* WELL, anyway. You’ve given me a boost today. Thank you :) I look forward to your inspirational blog posts all the time ♥

  4. melissa ann | November 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for saying this. I have the “introvert” trait of needing and wanting connections to be authentic and meaningful. Putting my art out there is exciting and vulnerable. I just launched a new website and have created accounts on Facebook Twitter instagram pinteresr flicker 500px etsy etc. So overwhelming and time consuming. Your words were helpful. I need to choose the only the outlets that feel right for me. Thank you for the guidance from afar.394

  5. Peter Tellone | November 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely Brooke. Thanks so much for saying it

  6. Daniela Pacheco | November 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Oh noooo!!! I actually looked you up in instagram TODAY and found you, and was so happy to be able to follow you LOL I actually love IG because is all fun for me. As a portrait photographer I feel using my camera is job, job, job, and the smart phone has given me back the just for fun part. But I understand you. Will keep following your path around here ;)

  7. Juan | November 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you Brooke. I am not much of a writer but back in 2011 I wrote something about it on Facebook. I was being pressured to post and tweet and text since everyone seems to be doing it. Fast forward a few years and what I wrote about is getting worse. Here is the link to what I wrote:

    Don’t judge me harshly I am not a writer but would like to be! : )

  8. Linda Keagle | November 9, 2013 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    Thanks Brooke…well thought and stated

  9. Scott Brawn | November 9, 2013 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    I often look at your photos and wonder how they would be with a male subject as opposed to female, which you mostly use. I love your work and I would love to take up something along these lines myself but one of the issues I encounter, in my thought process and in how I feel work is perceived by others, is, the male role doesn’t really fit this kind of work very well. Except in certain character roles, such as the hero, the romantic lead, the military bravery etc, as these are typical, accepted male roles. I am not saying it would be great to put men in dresses and shoot your photos as you do with women, just that I am not quite sure where a man may fit in to your style of work. Do you ever think about that? For instance, how could one portray the romantic male lead of a story, as a lone subject? A lot of your female subjects are lone characters, a bit dreamy and otherworldly, not quite sure that would work for a man.

  10. Steven Roberts | November 9, 2013 at 3:01 am | Permalink

    Dear Brooke, I understand where you’re coming from. That’s a very mature self realization, and brings comfort to many who feel the same way. I especially identify with your comment about people focusing on trends rather than self expression. A girl undressing for pictures seems to attract followers quite quickly – go figure. However, the assumption that an artist’s work, which happens to fall under a certain on-going or current trend, is nothing more than that, seems a bit brash. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about your observations is that each and every photo posted is an act of people expressing themselves. Some as leaders, and others as half naked “repeaters” or “followers of trends.” Regardless, someone who expresses themself the way you do, with unique ideas, propelled by deep thought – is still not equal to more or better expression, but rather just a different kind than those who “sellout,” if you will.. In my opinion, you have done nothing to “fail” at Instagram. On the contrary, judging by the responses you get from fans you’ve made on IG, the word “successful” wouldn’t quite justify your account. Given your recent outward understanding of who you are and where you stand – (as stated in you blog above) – your Instagram success is rectified on another level entirely. I think you should continue to stand out amongst other IGers and not be so concerned with the “pressures of conforming.” I would bet that 18k people or so would stand by that suggestion as well.

  11. Dawn B. Dwyer | November 9, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I was about to make the leap to Instagram not really understanding what it was about and what the fuss was all about. But your article explained it well. I too prefer to keep my day to day private cause quite frankly I don’t think it would be that interesting for others and it is personal to me as a creative. That post was really powerful for me and hit home just when I needed it. It took pressure off me. I have a dumb phone and love it. I love that I don’t get the interruptions. When I am with my husband out and about he has a smartphone and I admit that it comes in handy but I love an uninterrupted life. I like to get social on my terms. Yes, it is old fashion but it feels pure and freeing. I love freedom! I love freedom of choice and not have to apologize for it. That is why there are so many forms of social media, so we can pick and choose the ones we like and be consistent somewhere rather than skimming the surface everywhere.

  12. Dawn B. Dwyer | November 9, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Oh and Brooke the photo was perfect expression of social media for some of us feeling the unnecessary pressure. Ha Ha

  13. Janet Graley | November 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Love your work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Jan Laarhoven | November 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    …about finding your own way. Some people are happy and inspired by social media other don’t and that’s ok. Sometimes although hard to understand, to discover and to be honest to your self.

  15. Ash W | November 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Oh boy, I’ve been waiting to hear a photographer that I admire say what I just read. As an up-and-coming I can’t help but feel the pressure to be tied to every social networking platform out there. To be honest, most of those apps and websites leave me feeling like a needle in a hay stack. That’s no way to feel about yourself, especially when you’re trying to focus on your own potential for future images/projects.

    That said, there have been a couple of platforms that have led me to some very flattering accomplishments, for that I am grateful. The power of social networking is incredible but not everything is for everyone; I think we each find our niche and in turn that niche may influence us in our future projects. In a world of seemingly endless apps, blogs, publications and celebrity we can still thrive in our own individuality if we just realize what works best for ourselves and remember to just do what we love to do.

  16. Fabiola Jean-Louis | November 10, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I feel the same way all the time…Sometimes, the monkey of pressure is sitting on my chest when it comes to creating – usually self induced and, i have to remind myself why I am doing the work I do in the first place. I often feel that much of social media contributes to my pressure. While it’s great for some things, it has the power to negatively influence the creative process. Great post!

  17. Carlos Ramirez | November 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I often see people trying to duplicate your style. If you create an image of someone using a cape, other people do the same! It is really unpleasant when someone duplicates your images.

  18. Bonnie Al-Rifai | November 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    The funny part is, you’re the one who taught me what a hashtag is and how the heck to use it! :)

  19. Askar Ibragimov | November 15, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Not all social media are similar. Somehow people call them Social media and it kind of mixes everything, like facebook, twitter and other ones are just different sites to post same thing. E.g., marketing thing. Or show-your-work thing. Or, as you stated, presense thing.

    I would however say that it might be a reasonable move that you made an account. Your branding goes by your name, so you do not want someone accidentally or on purpose take your favourite self-branding name for yourself. E.g, I go as ‘tsukasa’ on Facebook, Vk.Com, 500px and Livejournal – so it creates some sort of nice uniform presence. networks grow and it’s a good thing to have familiar nickname everywhere.

    Speaking about instagram, it is not the same as other networks, as it operates by pictures. Some decide to share their artwork, some just go by snaps, some (like me) mix things. I find instagram invaluable and unique. It happen to be very positive content. What people do on FB? They repost all sort of troubling things. Bad political news, social campaighns, etc etc. But! Instagram only allows you to post pics and does not allow reposts. So while it is not reflecting anything by your moments in pics, it is good for create sort of sane, filled with happy and simple emotions space. I watch my friends, post funny stuff I met on my ways, observe few cute actresses, ballerinas and rthytmic gymnasts in their natural habitat. :) I did not made it a routine – it juts somehow worked out to me particular way and I enjoy the use of app. If I won’t be finding something in using it, I simply won’t.

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