I broke up with Instagram (a graphic essay)

Published by Nela Dunato on in Art, Marketing, Personal, Sketchbook, Thoughts

In this experimental graphic essay, I explain why I stopped using Instagram and broke my dysfunctional relationship with the algorithm.

View and read my first graphic essay “Big Mouth”

(Typed transcript is available at the end. There are some spelling and grammar errors in the original.)

I broke up with Instagram - graphic essay page 1
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How I intend to share my work in the future

After writing my super-long article on creativity in isolation from social media and publicity, I’ve gotten more clarity on how I want to do things in the future.

I’ll redirect all of my effort from social media to this blog and my newsletter. (You’re welcome to join!) I quit Instagram and minimized my Facebook and Twitter use. I don’t use the social aspects of YouTube, I basically just host my videos there. My income doesn’t rely on social media so this is an easy decision. My heart really goes out to those who have made Instagram a part of their business model. Untangling from it would be tough.

For me personally, the negative sides of social media outweigh the benefits, and even these benefits are more scarce than they used to be before the algorithm started rewarding accounts that post incessantly and punishing those that don’t. It’s overwhelming both on the creator and the user side—like I would want to see 3 stories per day by 200 people I follow? I’ll read a book instead, thanks.

That said, if I was starting from scratch and my website had zero traffic, I’d use social media to start building my audience. Partly because I’d be enthusiastic about something new. Partly because I wouldn’t have any expectations. Partly because I’d have no other choice. But I’d focus more on videos than still images. The learning curve with video is steeper, but it’s the medium of the present.

If you need help deciding whether to keep using a certain social media platform or not, I recommend the article How to know when to quit a marketing practice in which I share a decision-making framework that I use.

Tools I used

Because people often ask me what I use for my sketches, here’s my list of tools:

(Amazon affiliate links. I’ll get paid a few cents if you buy something using my link, and there’s no extra charge to you.)


For a while, Instagram was my favorite social network. I was able to follow wonderful art, photography, crafts… with no drama, news, ads, and very little spam. I didn’t even use it as a “business”. My personal art was always at the focus.

My partner always used to say: “I don’t get it.”

And I’d always reply: “Because it’s not for you.”

And then it got sold to Facebook, and we know it would go to Hell, and it did. No surprises there.

Sometimes breakups are sudden. A fight, someone crosses a line, and there’s no coming back from that. It’s over. Other times there are stages.

  1. Fighting starts.
  2. Love and passion subsides (but leaving something comfortable is scary.)
  3. Separation trial and realizing you don’t miss them as much as you thought you would.
  4. The last straw.

My last straw was getting a glimpse of what is expected from a creator if they want to be on the algorithm’s good side. My reaction to that was a firm

Fuck the algorithm

  • 1 post per day
  • 2 stories per day
  • 4–7 reels per week
  • 1–2 IGTV or live videos per week
  • your life
  • your soul

I don’t like it as a consumer, either. I stopped seeing works of people I followed, and 1 out of 3 posts in my feed is an ad, or some random user IG thinks I might like. The crap outweighs the good (for me at least).

I’m relieved that I have one less online profile to maintain.

And no more stupid cropped formats that my art doesn’t fit in.

And one less place to go to compare my work with others and feel insecure.

And one less place to get instant validation.

(Facebook is a dumpster fire too, so it’s just a matter of time when I’ll quit it as well.)

So… What’s next?

What’s my plan B?

For the past few years, when I asked myself what my goal is, what I want to be able to do, my honest answer was: sabbatical. Unplugged vacation and art retreat. That’s what I really want. I suppose I had enough of being nearly constantly online for the past 20 years.

Twenty years. Mind-boggling. The Internet has helped me become the creator that I am, and to find my confidence and have a livelihood. But it’s different now, and I’m different. I value creativity in isolation more and more.

I’ll keep sharing my heart and my voice, but I’ll be doing it in my own time and on my own terms.

No more dysfunctional relationships with the algorithm. I don’t know yet what that will look like, but I’ll figure it out. Stay tuned.

December 27th 2020

Related podcast episode: Artist vs content creator


Some blog articles contain affiliate links to products on Amazon or Jackson's Art Supplies. I’ll get paid a few cents if you buy something using my link, and there’s no extra charge to you.

4 responses to “I broke up with Instagram (a graphic essay)”

  1. I really enjoyed this article. I resonate with it so much because I too am tired of the algorithm. I remember when Instagram would show posts in reverse-chronological order, now it remembers what you like or comment and tailors to that. And I think the reason these new rules were implemented in the algorithm is because now everyone wants to be on Instagram and make an income there in some way. (I’ve read your Authentic Promotion Guidebook and agreed when you said you shouldn’t house your business on social media alone)

    It bothers me the most when Instagram rolls out new features and then pretty much forces you to use them if you want lots of likes and comments and all that crap. And by the time I do learn one of their new features, it suddenly becomes just an option as a new (and “better”) feature comes out. It’s really annoying trying to keep up with these things.

    I’m impressed that you broke up with Instagram, doing that nowadays feels risky, but you said you don’t rely on social media for your business and I feel like that is an achievement you can proudly say. I can’t get myself to leave because I personally do not know any other way to show my art other than ON social media, since pretty much everyone is on there. But there have been many studies and articles on getting off social media because there’s more to life than likes and comments.

    I do wish I could leave Instagram after reading this, but I don’t feel ready to do so. But I will remember this because I think everyone needs to read this.

    Thank you for the great article and shedding a light of hope on topics like this and I hope you have a great day :)


  2. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment, Claudine!
    Yeah you’re right, currently it’s the “Reels” feature that seems to be a must-use feature. but this feature is not even available in most countries yet so many creators are unfairly punished simply for not living in the United States.

    I don’t know if it’s something to be proud of really, but it just happened that I started publishing my work on the internet long before social media platforms were so mainstream, so I was forced to create my own websites. And thanks to that history, and the 200+ blog posts I’ve published on this website alone, Google ranks my content well in the search, which brings me new clients and blog readers.
    If I had to start over today, I’m not sure what I would do. The whole point is we can’t replicate someone else’s journey, even if we take all of their advice. I’m very careful about advising ditching any social platform, because it may not be viable for many, at least for now.

    HOWEVER. I really do recommend to every creator to make their own website and start posting regularly there as soon as possible, and to invest more time in their own website than they do on platforms owned by other companies. And if ditching social media is on your long-term wishlist, a newsletter is a must.

    If it were normal times, I’d say to artists: go out there and network! Attend art fairs and shows! Reach out to cafe owners and have them display your work! But we’re not in normal times, and currently none of this will work :(
    But I’ve been asked this question by several artists – what DO we do if we’re not on social media? And now I want to find case studies of people who are doing this, from various fields, to see how it can be done. If I do manage to find them, I’ll, share it in my newsletter, and maybe on the blog as well (depending on what I find).

    Thanks again Claudine, and if you see this reply, I wish you a great day as well :)

  3. Hi Nela,
    I Enjoyed the article! Relate to the frustration with Instagram’s algorithm changes. Your Authentic Promotion Guidebook was insightful, emphasizing not relying solely on social media for business. Adapting to new Instagram features for better engagement is challenging, and the constant updates make it hard to keep up.

    Commend your decision to break up with Instagram. In a time where it feels indispensable, not relying on it for business is admirable. Personally torn, as I showcase my art on social media for its reach.

    Studies advocate stepping away, emphasizing life beyond likes and comments. Not ready to leave Instagram, but your article reminds there’s more to explore.

    Thanks for sharing your insights. A beacon of hope for balance in the social media landscape. Have a fantastic day! 😊

    • Hello David,
      why did your link point to an Instagram-related service? I have a hard time considering your comment as honest and coming from a fellow artist, when it looks like an attempt at link-building. Where is the art you’re talking about?

      In any case I’ve deleted the link and will not allow it here. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and not mark your comment as spam – for now. But consider this a yellow card.

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