My Complicated Relationship with Instagram

Alternate Title: Social Networking when you’re Anti-Social

Alternate Alternate Title: This isn’t an overly complicated and deep introspect into the perils of Social Media, It’s just an accounting of an average users Instagram journey so far.

Alternate Alternate Alternate Title: This may be my longest post yet so please read through til the end

I opened my Instagram account in 2011 but I had my first forays with social media way back in the early 2000s. While I had been able to completely avoid the Friendster and MySpace onslaughts (i was really tempted with the latter, though, because of the lack of ‘friend’ and the presence of ‘my’ in the name), I had to reluctantly sign up to an up and coming social network service so I can see the photos from the wedding I just recently attended, which the bride selfishly intended to be viewed exclusively in Multiply. Before you think how petty or vain I am to have to see those photos, tell me If you wont be as compelled to do so after dressing up as Legolas from Lord of the Rings along with the other groomsmen beside Aragorn the groom and Arwen the bride, with wings and all. Yeah, nobody told her that Arwen was an elf, not a fairy.

Anyway, since I was already there in Multiply, and the flames of my photography passion was already burning inside me at the time, I decided to make it my repository of photos – my first public gallery, so to speak. That didn’t last because multiply turned into an early version of online marketplace – which is basically what all social networking sites turned into eventually – and I wanted no part of it. I guess you know where this is going right? I avoided Facebook like the plague by setting up this creed that virtual friends are not real friends, literally and figuratively, even though I wasn’t the type to have too many real friends in the first place. I’d like only a select few but dependable ones, thank you very much.

But I kept on looking for ways to express myself creatively, and re-started journaling (which i started when i was in high school) and went through volumes of black notebooks – yes, I was emo like that – and eventually realized that i had to digitize to ensure longevity of my content. And so I opened a secret account in blogspot. In black theme. Told you i was emo right? And it was a dark time for me. And i mean DARK. So much so that the blog’s name is Daydreams in the Dark – don’t bother looking for it, I’ll post some of my content in this website. It wasn’t meant to be seen, but eventually I gained some patronage there, around 3 to 5 regular readers!

Some time in 2006, my love for photography took center stage when I transitioned from film (point and shoots) and my beloved canon ixus to a digital slr. My need to express became more visual as is apt for the medium and I veered towards the gold standard at the time – flickr. Ok, gold is relative. Not sure what the professionals really used at the time but the quality there is brutal for the newbie. And years into it, I still felt like one. I was learning a lot but I wasn’t improving – or at least I didn’t feel so because the ‘competition’ there was simply always going to be better than me.

And so we arrive where we started: in 2011 (That was a long introduction – if you’re still here, thank you). Instagram was a year old when I signed up, and it was because I was avoiding it again, thinking it was more of a social networking service more than a showcase of creativity and passion. I was worried it’ll be another marketplace, something that will make me violate my anti-FB creed. Spoiler: of course it became all that I thought it would be.

But IG hooked me good. Real good. I started with no pressure, the quality both the artistic and technical (file size, resolution) did not matter. All you needed to do was post and the grid design will stitch your story together magically. I was exclusively using the filters all the time and for better or worse, what my work looks like now was a result of mixing and matching my photos with layers upon layers of filters. I went from being a purist with my photos to accepting that a photo, to be fully your creation needs to look exactly like how you want it to look. Otherwise, It’ll be the same as anyone else’s photos. Don’t get me wrong though, somewhere along the way i debunked this as the sole factor and leaned towards composition as an equally (if not more) powerful means to distinguish my POV from others.

I’ll be showing the different phases of my instagram journey. I leave it to you to see how my work has changed or if you think I have improved or regressed. You can tell me. Or not. It’s ok.

The Early Years

Followers: 0-100; average likes per post: 5-30

As you can see, this is a smorgasbord of filters and borders, me trying to explore the features of the medium at the time. I started joining some groups, including the premiere community at the time, IGers Manila. I started engaging others. Me. The anti-FB creed person me. I started entering IG contests and was lucky enough to win a few. Or maybe that’s how IG sucks you in 😉

At some point, the hubris (as I considered it when Facebook actually acquired IG! FACEBOOK ACTUALLY NOW OWNS IG!) caught up with me and i started to withdraw from all the interaction, but i never stopped posting and documenting. I felt like a sell-out, that i violated my ‘creed’ and then I started to not care about likes…

My First Pastel & Monochrome Phases

Followers: 200; Average Likes: 5-8

… and so i started my next phase with hardly no likes at all as I gradually avoided using hashtags. It became more important for me to post what I wanted my photos to look like. I started enjoying posting again and could not wait to snap photos and apply my workflow. Snapseed was my go to editor at the time. The constant likes to my posts where close friends and family- which was more than good enough for me.

My Full-Frame phase

Followers: 350 Average likes: 50

My IG style took a slightly different turn when I got myself a Sony Full Frame camera. I started pixel peeping and wanted to see the resolution translate into IG. This resulted in borderline HDR images – but never the over the top ones that became a trend across all photography platforms at one time. This is also when I started to use hashtags again but mostly to document the gear I was using and tap the Sony Alpha community which was growing as Sony was revolutionizing mirror less cameras. At this point I still did not care about social engineering and was just happily expressing myself.

The beginning of the end of an IG era

Followers: 600; Average likes: 60

Ignore the dramatic subtitle – this was just the phase where I really started to solidify my workflow and became more technically and socially confident about my content. It also helped that during these years I was fortunate to start traveling outside the country and was able to experience new cultures and colors. My reach started expanding and I started to get more followers but still not enough likes. I was ok with this and just settled on the stagnancy. I was still happily expressing in my own terms. Man, will that change in the next phase!

An edzellent IG phase for the foreseeable future

Followers: 600 to 1300 Average likes: 60 to 220

Everything changed when I started dabbling into the look and feel of film. The colors, the grit, the grain, the haze all appealed to me in a profound way as I remembered how I originally fell in love with film. I started acquiring film cameras and discovered a budding community worldwide that is starting to embrace this medium in a global scale. Sometime before this, I also started creating haikus (5-7-5 syllable prose) as my captions and was happy with my new mix of creative expression.

And then I had an epiphany.

This social network aspect that was in front of me now was something that I wanted to be part of. I wanted to share the journey with a growing niche of people. I wanted to learn from them, with them, and inspire and be inspired.

I also realized in a big way that for me to really be an Instagrammer (I don’t think this is an official term, though), I had to fully explore its features, nuances, and its inner workings. I started studying the algorithms and the trends and behaviors. And so in the last few months I almost doubled my followers, breaching 1000 after almost 10 years, where others reached this after weeks signing up. I am not complaining, mind you. As I said, this my own personal journey. You may ask why I limit the sites i follow, its because I still maintain ‘few but dependable friends’ mentality. Meaning, I want to be able to see all the posts of the people I follow. I want to be able to support their journey anyway I can. So, don’t worry, I do not play the follow/unfollow game.

I am still not a master of this platform, I don’t think I will ever be as it is really not in my personality to fully embrace this type of public engagement. And honestly, I am still confused with the algorithm and have not cracked it at all. But what I do know is that I am enjoying IG more than ever and I truly feel that I am able to express myself as I want to be represented. And interestingly, my creed about virtual friends not being real friends is starting to erode. Let’s see how THAT goes. Maybe ill post an update on my 10th year anniversary in June.

Final alternate title: I will still never open a facebook account ever.

7 Comments

  1. – yes, sir. i totally agree that all social media networking sites are turning into online marketplace. i really liked multiply back then.
    – i used to have a flickr account but i never posted my works. i just don’t feel my shots are good enough. people there are like pros with all their equipment and i just can’t keep up. i’m just a noob. so i just stayed on tumblr (photograpist.tumblr.com – last post was year 2013) and it is so nice to still see my shots back then. i know almost all of my shots are shitty and in low quality but i’m really proud of it. now this blog entry is making me miss shooting using a dslr–i dont have one now just film cameras.
    – your earlier instagram posts are nice!!! i still remember those filters! and my faves are: inkwell and earlybird. and oh those vignettes! hahaha so nice to look back!
    – ahh! your photos are so great! i really like your shots in “Followers: 600 Average likes: 60” and i can see the phases. you have the soft hues at first then now the contrasty shots. kudos and congrats on reaching 1k followers! yay! looking forward to more of you awesome shots, sir. stay safe 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG, earlybird was easily my favorite filter haha! Thanks for reminding me. Yes glad to know I wasn’t the only one who felt that in Flickr haha , my tagline there was actually ‘once a beginner, always a beginner’. Thank you for reading through, stay healthy and safe too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 Galing! Great read! First of all, loved the analytics that came with each phase of your IG journey! Also was amazed by the evolution of your work! Really one of my idols on IG!

    Thank you for sharing this! More than your readers and followers, I think that YOU have truly enjoyed looking back on your creative journey! Ganon kasi ako! Haha! For me, regardless of what platform you choose, it just really feels good to know that you have a “time capsule” to go back to. I feel like I have too many kaya when I discovered Lomography, I also created an account! Haha! And kudos to you for also continuously supporting other igers! It’s so easy to drown in a sea of content creators on socmed and I hate it sometimes when I don’t get to see anymore the posts of some creatives that I followed.

    Looking forward to more insightful posts sir!! Natapos ko na rin on ang post, on my quiet time (sa madaling araw) haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Grabe yung early years. Was using the same filters as well. But as what you have mentioned Sir Edzel, the colors, the grit, the grain, the haze, you’ve clearly gained your rhythm. May coherence. What a journey! Will surely watch out how the next phase goes.

    Liked by 1 person

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