In this experimental graphic essay, I explain why I stopped using Instagram and broke my dysfunctional relationship with the algorithm.
(Typed transcript is available at the end. There are some spelling and grammar errors in the original.)
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:
- Canson Art Book Universal A5 (one of my favorite sketchbooks)
- Faber-Castell 0.35mm Mechanical Pencil
- Kneaded eraser + regular eraser
- Pilot 78G+ fountain pen (discontinued) with a broad (italic) nib for writing
- Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen with a fine nib for drawing fine lines
- Pentel Pocket brush pen
- Pentel Arts Color Brush in Gray
- Derwent Inktense Pencil in Chili red
(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.
- Fighting starts.
- Love and passion subsides (but leaving something comfortable is scary.)
- Separation trial and realizing you don’t miss them as much as you thought you would.
- 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