Okay, I didn’t mean to be so dramatic. Or use a clickbait headline, but in reality, what used to be Instagram is now dead. It was a wonderful gathering place for photographers to showcase their work and build an audience. Not a day goes by when some photographer friend or the other bemoans how Instagram is no longer a place for photography.
They willfully ignore what Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said almost a year ago:
“We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app.” Instagram’s chief went on to elaborate that “at Instagram, we’re always trying to build new features that help you get the most out of your experience. Right now, we’re focusing on four key areas: Creators, Video, Shopping, and Messaging.” In other words, anything but photography.
“While Instagram initially fueled my passion for photography; rather than being inspired through the art of photography itself, too often I find myself chasing numbers of followers and likes. I realized that all this time I wanted to share my work to get a ‘pat on the back,’ rather than to inspire,” photographer Nicole Malina told PetaPixel. They are addicted to this notion of an audience that gives them credence, and this addiction allows the photographers to keep feeding the monster that doesn’t care — all it wants is to sell sell sell.
(Additional Reading: PetaPixel did an excellent job of curating photographers and their thoughts about Instagram, and it is worth reading.)
Instagram’s co-founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger created a mobile social network based on visual storytelling. The impetus provided by the early photography-centric approach turned it into a fast-growing phenomenon. For Facebook, it was an existential threat. And it was worth spending nearly a billion dollars to own, control, and eventually subsume. And that’s precisely what Facebook has done.
What’s left is a constantly mutating product that copies features from “whomever is popular now” service — Snapchat, TikTok, or whatever. It is all about marketing and selling substandard products and mediocre services by influencers with less depth than a sheet of paper.
It has become QVC 2.0. About four years ago, I postulated as much. I was hopeful that, with the launch of IGTV (remember that), Instagram could become an excellent way for brands to tell their stories. — much like QVC did in its early days.
“Given that commerce is already such a big part of Instagram, the infrastructure is already in place to roll out new offerings,” I wrote. “Just swipe right to buy the products, and you start to see why I think of it as QVC 2.0.”
Of course, I forgot that QVC might have started well but eventually turned to shit. And so did Instagram. Two years later, I came to my senses and thus said: “The new Shop and Reels tabs make everything dumb and easy. QVC 2.0 is coming into sharp focus. I feel sad for photographers who think their future is on Instagram and the social network it brings. They don’t realize that they are there to help sell tchotchkes.”
“Instagram’s slow evolution into a glorified mall isn’t only an attempt to dethrone TikTok and Youtube’s massive base, but also Amazon’s,” Gizmodo notes. The advertisers are starting to advertise more on Amazon, which is not such a good development for a company so heavily reliant on advertising. Facebook, Instagram, and now TikTok’s descent into QVC territory mean that more people are buying things they don’t need, which in turn is causing havoc with their revenues. Fortune magazine notes that “Social media impacts consumers’ spending habits,” and a new study by Bankrate shows that “nearly half of users admit to making an impulse purchase based on a sponsored post.”
The company just announced a new creator marketplace which means creators (much like celebrities of yore that hawked wares on QVC and HSN (the Home Shopping Network) can do the same for the brands. “Social media is essentially the new roadside billboard, only it accomplishes the goal of traditional advertising in a much savvier way,” Bankrate.com analyst Sarah Foster told Fortune.
Instagram’s transformation into QVC is now complete and absolute. Instagram is dead — or at least the Instagram I knew and loved is dead. It is no longer part of my photographic journey.
PS: You can see my latest photos on my photography blog or sign-up for my photography-focused email newsletter.