This is the first of a new series giving a quick rundown of my thoughts and experiences on all the photography sharing apps and services I've used. It's not meant to be a review of features etc but my sense of what's good and bad about each. I'm also looking at these from an ethical angle, something that seems pertinent in the age of surveillance capitalism and murky actors.
First up is the big one...
Instagram: By far today's most popular photo sharing site yet at the same time perhaps the most alienating and ethically dubious. The Instagram app makes it easy to share smartphone photos and I guess that’s what drives its popularity. On the other hand sharing photos from your standard camera requires jumping though some hoops and there isn’t a desktop version of the site or a desktop uploader. It’s famous filters are mostly ‘meh’ and the service is plagued by bots, fake followers and get-rich-quickers. But being Facebook, none of that should be a surprise.
When I had my account I constantly saw my follower numbers ebb and flow mostly due to bot accounts coming and going and 'likes' seemed to derive randomly or due to certain photo types or the alignment of the stars. This probably explains why so many images on Instagram seem to be so similar. Also Instagram suffers from the same issues that plague so much of social media, suggesting only things it thinks you will like based on what you already like. Hence the echo chamber effect. This is nothing if not boring and tedious.
Despite being at the top of the social media heap I find Instagram anything but social. Everyone on there is in pursuit of the only currency that matters, the ‘like’. Want a real in depth discussion or analysis of photos and photography? Look elsewhere because Instagram is the whole earth wide but only a millimetre deep.
The ethical angle : Facebook's dubious record with regards to protecting the privacy of your data is well documented. Their only objective is to bundle you up and sell you to the highest bidder, be that a soap company or the internet research agency. What goes for Facebook should be assumed to apply to Instagram as well
My take : I deleted my Instagram account a while back. Between the bots and the privacy issues it became an app too far for me.
Update : If you need proof that Instagram is a collection of boring, me-too, look alike images check out https://www.instagram.com/insta_repeat/