What I Don’t Get About Instagram

Sunset on a forgotten beach somewhere far away. All messed up with no place to go.
(Camera: Agfa Isolette II; Film: Kodak Ektar 100; Various non-Instagram filters.)

Instagram is in a bit of hot water with its users right now because of recent changes to its terms of service. People are expressing shock, outrage, and horror that a corporation is (gasp!) putting profitability ahead of their concerns. Now there might be something truly nasty lurking in all that fine print you’re forced to agree to when you sign up for an account, but since the verbiage is written by lawyers, for lawyers, it’s hard to tell. One thing for sure, it’s fertile ground for misrepresentation and misinterpretation. But my issue with Instagram isn’t their terms of service (which I assume are odious), it’s that I could never convince myself there was any point to it.

Here’s what I don’t get. If the only thing that makes my picture interesting is the “look” supplied by an Instragram filter, what exactly am I bringing to the party? Is my creative input reduced to simply deciding which filter to use? Equally, if my picture is a nicely composed shot of an interesting subject, why do I need Instragram at all? Why slap on a pre-fab veneer that only distracts from the essential elements of the photo?  See what I mean?  I’ve puzzled over this long and hard, but the point of Instagram still eludes me.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not passing judgement on anyone who enjoys Instagram. I know some really great people who use the service and love it. I’m just saying that for me, and for my attempts at creative self expression, Instagram doesn’t compute. It just feels like subcontracting my creativity to a corporation, which strikes me as unappealing in lots of ways. And it’s not just Instagram that I don’t get. The appeal of cross-processed images and the use of expired and damaged films baffles me too. I appreciate how neat it is to introduce random elements into one’s art, but I guess the way I’m wired, control is a big part of the whole process. I might like the results when someone else employs these devices, but when I use them, it feels more like cheating than an act of creativity. But maybe the use of black-and-white can also be regarded as  simply a “device” too?  I guess it’s up to each of us to make our creative bed and lie in it.

(Camera: Agfa Isolette II; Film: Kodak Ektar 100)

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One Response to What I Don’t Get About Instagram

  1. Rob says:

    In my opinion Instagram, Instagram like-apps, cross-processing, and lomo all share the same feature: they evoke emotion within the viewer. Creativity does exist, as I see the same people creating emotionally moving images time and time again, while other may have one or two or none at all. There is a lot of randomness, whether through software or through the camera itself, but it seems that if one knows how to work with that randomness, beauty and emotions come through.