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What's with all the paintings and other weird stuff on Instagram lately? I like them and I kinda want to buy one, but I’m curious about your thinking and how you’re deciding what to post these days.
I’m glad someone asked about this, as it’s been on my mind a lot recently and your question gives me the excuse to think out loud about it.
Longtime followers of my Instagram account in particular may have noticed that I’ve been posting fewer travel-focused images and more random little tidbits, of late.
This pivot (which began a year or two ago) is the consequence of one primary observation:
Social media has just gotten a little boring, draining, and ultra-focused on things I don’t care about.
Some of the most interesting people I know have become perpetual self-promoters, the networks themselves have started incentivizing truly dull (and at times outright harmful) nonsense, and most people I know feel some combination of numb and overwhelmed about the exercise of performing for their audiences on this network—but can’t seem to set it aside.
It also feels like the networks themselves are just cluttered and convoluted, and are optimizing for outcomes that are antagonistic to everything (including their users’ wellbeing and success) except their own bare survival.
Which is fine—that’s part of how the economic system within which we live functions, I guess—but that doesn’t mean I have to participate in it; at least not in the way they want me to.
On the same note, I’ve started to feel used by these networks, which were once truly appealing and interesting tools for all sorts of conversations and connections, but which are now primarily a means of extracting free labor from users for the benefit of giant, wildly wealthy tech companies and their owners (this has arguably always been the case, but the balance of benefits has shifted more toward the companies and away from the users in recent years).
So when I put work into an Instagram post, the main beneficiary is Instagram (and its parent-company, Meta, which also owns Facebook and WhatsApp).
While I could theoretically throw myself into the project of sustaining a potent Insta-presence, then, there are frankly just other things I’d rather be doing, other places I’d prefer to focus my time and attention, and other work that’s more meaningful to me and the sort of things I’d like to make (and the type of social space in which I’d like to spend my time and energy).
Consequently, most of what I post on Instagram (and this is true of other networks, too, but Insta is the archetypical stand-in for those other networks for the purposes of this answer) is just random stuff I would generally share with friends and family via text message, rather than endless self-promotion, work that drains me, and content I’m creating (without compensation) to further enrich people and businesses that already have more money than they’ll ever be able to spend.
I still find value in some of these networks: Twitter has become even more of a dumpster fire than it already was, but I follow a carefully curated list of people on there and on Mastodon, and that continues to expose me to useful and inspiring stuff (I also enjoy sharing a curated feed of interesting things I discover via those two networks, and on my Facebook page).
Periodically, Instagram Stories are useful when I want to give a tour of a museum or the like, and Instagram Live, YouTube, and Twitch can be fun places to hold Q&As.
I also reference YouTube for instructions on how to do all sorts of things all the time, though I find that using it as anything but a library to be visited (as opposed to a TV station to just passively soak up) a little depressing.
Worth noting here, too, is that these are my responses and priorities and standards, and other people will (and should) find value in things I do not, and will not find value in things I cherish.
That’s okay and normal and as it should be.
Ideally, though, we all find the proper balance between creation and consumption, and (with that in mind) we take the time to figure out which platforms, tools, and networks are worthy of our effort and attention.
For me, right now, that means posting fun little paintings (which aren’t for sale right now—but I appreciate the implied compliment!) on a feed that I previously used for more professional purposes.
That could (and hopefully will) change in the future, though, as this period of social platform disruption plays out and new incentives, business models, and engagement options rise to the top.
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