The End of an IG Era: Why I Left Instagram

Published on Sunday, September 20, 2020
Last updated Wednesday, October 25, 2023
5 min read

After nearly a decade on the platform, my journey on Instagram comes to an end. Instagram transformed me in numerous ways over the years. It was one of the reasons I switched from the original Motorola Droid to an iPhone 4 when the app was only available on iOS. Instagram gave me the confidence to pursue amateur photography and allowed me to meet people and make connections I never would have otherwise. It served as an outlet for creativity, expression, and exploration during the stressful and isolating years of my undergrad.

Tabby cat resting on the trunk of a car.
My first Instagram photo, taken with an iPhone 4.

Unfortunately, Instagram no longer serves me in the same way, and it hasn’t for quite some time. I’ve gradually posted less and felt less confident in creating content here. Some of it can be attributed to personal growth and change. I used to blame my busy career and education, telling myself I would have time later. Even with more time on my hands after grad school, I find it increasingly challenging to engage on this platform despite my desire for a creative outlet in photography.

Macro photograph of a budding sunflower.
For a while, I was pretty good at faking macro photography on the iPhone.

Yes, I have changed, but so has Instagram. I might be the odd one out because I never used this platform to document my life. Personally, I’m not inclined to use social media as a way to digitally scrapbook my life. While others exclusively use these platforms for that purpose, there's nothing wrong with it.

Photo of soft serve ice cream in a cone sitting on a table.
Back when everyone posted photos of what they were eating...

It was never my intention to be “insta-famous,” but I can tell that my content isn’t reaching the audience it used to. My posts might not have been of top quality, but in 2011, I found an engaging, judgment-free, and creative community here that shared a passion for pushing the creative limits of the devices we held in our hands. Sadly, that community has withered away, and I no longer find joy in posting content in the echo chamber that remains.

Screenshot of Instagram's CEO liking one of Casey's photos.
Back when Insta was so grassroots that even the CEO could discover your photos.

The influx of paid and promotional content has made it nearly impossible to rediscover or find a virtual community. Instagram is no longer a platform for enthusiasts. The Discover/Explore page, curated by Instagram's algorithms, doesn't reflect the content I followed or created here. Frankly, I'm tired of sifting through a sea of sponsored posts and chiseled torsos just to find the ever-elusive content of architecture and landscape photography.

A black and a red cow standing at the top of a green hill.
I was always on the lookout for minimalist compositions.

In some ways, the content Instagram serves me now has negatively influenced how I view my own creativity and self-expression. I have no concrete evidence, but I suspect Instagram wants free users to create less free content and engage more with paid content. Paid content is something I can’t compete with, and I don’t want to. I shouldn’t be expected to compete for visibility. There's no organic discovery of content on Instagram anymore, and I miss the reciprocation of discovery and engagement the most.

Trees covered in ice on an island in the middle of lake.
"Cool on your island."

That being said, I’m not giving up on “iPhoneography” or online creative platforms altogether. Now is a better time than ever for pauses and resets in our physical and digital lives. It's time to rethink and rebuild. I will archive all my content from over the years and hopefully repurpose or re-home it. I plan to start fresh on the VSCO community and invest my time and energy there. Feel free to join me if you're an active user. I intend to follow many of the creative users I follow here over there. I’m also considering creating a space for photo albums or long-form photo storytelling as I rebuild my personal website.

Buildings connected together, floating on water.
Before the days of "Smart HDR" and computational photography.

On a final, more sobering, note: I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support and fund Instagram’s parent company, Facebook (or Meta), through my engagement and use of their platforms and services. This corporation has been found guilty of data breaches, privacy violations, and actively undermining democracies worldwide. Despite being fined billions for their wrongdoing, Facebook’s power, influence, and ability to conduct business as usual remain unchecked. Reform and jurisprudence are needed urgently, but that can't wait. The only way to stop this machine before it's too late is to throw ourselves into its gears. For me, that time has come.

Hammers for piano keys in a pile on concrete.
Some things are beyond repair, and that's okay.

It’s been a unique journey. Please stay safe and take care. ✌🏼

Steel frame from the remains of a shipwreck on the beach.
Like Instagram only a skeleton of its former self remains.