I find a version of its sarcastic sentiment in myself whenever I am thinking about the current state of INSTAGRAM (once a platform suitable for artists). This also applies when I consider the Facebook company's claim that INSTAGRAM algorithm serves to select those moments you care about most. As I explain at the end of this text, the sarcastic sentiment here couples with a very unpleasant smell of something brown.
Caring about something most can hardly be articulated in terms of likes and comments (comments as quantified entities, that is, relevant only with regard to the number of them under a post). But, to be clear, the opposite of this is not what the Facebook company leaders are mistakenly thinking. It is something they would like us to mistakenly think. Why? Because they want us to earn for them as much money as possible.
There is a whole lot of linguistic manipulation that incorporates two mechanisms whose purpose is to manipulate you into making more money for the Facebook company. The first one is an infestation of our vocabulary containing the terms like "friend", "caring about" with the semantic content which resembles the original content of the words, but is far more superficial and in many ways very reductive. The Facebook company wants to induce an illusion that using their platforms is in its essence something more personal, important and humane than in practice it actually is. For this purpose the company operates according to the well known truth that reality is in a crucial sense constituted by the language we use.
The second mechanism can be called "moral washing". What the Facebook company was doing with INSTAGRAM, since 2016 in the least, is directed by one, unambiguous goal: to make more money. More and at any cost. But this is how they wouldn't express it, would they? Of course not, they want you to see the changes made as a result of caring about you rather than caring about you as long as you earn more money for them. They want you to accept the fairytale in which the moments you care about most is that which the Facebook company cares about most.
The corporate capitalism in its best!
Now, what the hell we - qua (former) users of INSTAGRAM - have been experiencing in the past several years? For sure, INSTAGRAM was from its beginning perfect for the imagery which promises rather a superficial and instant satisfaction. This imagery is surely not what we care about most, but we definitely want to enjoy it sometimes - sometimes we need to steam off. Perhaps a bit too far in the land of pink and shiny optimisms, I dare to claim that the things that inspire and intrigue us are those we care about most. Such a content is surely something we need more energy to digest, something we do not search all time and something the interaction with cannot be reduced to a quick initial high followed by clicking to the heart (like) icon, this being followed quickly by moving to the next. Yeah, one minute (or even less) after an interaction in the instragram-typical superficial form you don't even remember what you interacted with. But for the Facebook company this is good: an empty mind is empty for more trash; more scrolling, more adverts seen, more likes, more probability the people who received your likes will check the app and see some adverts.
As everything has been transforming with the goal to make adverts visible as much as possible, INSTAGRAM became a social network less suitable for artists. Instead of finding ways to support artists and earn more money (or enough money - wouldn't it be enough?) without ruining this support, the Facebook company created a machine for making your content visible according to how much like-clicking is caused by it. Your content must be as widely accessible as possible, it must not consume too much of the audience's mental energy and it must be dealt with in a shortest time possible in order that the audience can move further in the feed quickly.
If you are a serious artist, your INSTAGRAM has slowly became something closer to a portfolio site. It shows its content only after you give someone the link to your site. Posting turned more into mere adding a picture to your site. Here we encounter the dilemma which the Facebook company, with all its capitalistic care about money, figured out for the INSTAGRAM users:
Either you generate a content which is shitty but saturates the company's financial crave, or you generate a quality content whose inability to generate the huge instant attention of masses must be compensated by your money spent on the promotion of your posts.
Notice how stupid this is. Artists very usually don't have much money as their work is often not bringing a lot of money. Contrary to that, those who engage in creating the imagery for masses earn a lot of money, or at least by the essence of what they do they can. Yet, it is the artist who, according to the Facebook company, should fill the bottomless corporate pockets. Spending money on promotion while the artist can barely pay for the rent and keep his/her belly full is not, I dare to say, among the moments the artist cares about most.
And of course, INSTAGRAM does not waste any chance to remind you that people might like your work and that you can pay to promote it. This came as a bad influence of INSTAGRAM's older (step)brother, Facebook. The ridiculously small exposure of your post is supposed to make the promotion advert more appealing. Recalling the initial days of INSTAGRAM this is basically like when a doctor decides to make money by stabbing people and telling them "You can be uninjured again if you pay for my services".
Instagram will not, at least for a certain time, become completely useless. There are serious uses of this app even in its current state which are relevant even to an artist. One thing, however, is certain. For relevant number of users, the Facebook company changed this app into something very different.
Something smelling of brown here ...
The algorithm which wants to do something more than just sorting the data in your feed according to a simple objective parameter like the publication time and date is either a fascist or a greedy bitch who wants to make more money. But if you choose the second and you tell me that it is actually a greedy fascist bitch, I am on the same page.
The original idea was that you control your feed by choosing which accounts to follow. Why there should be anything more than this? If you don't care about the posts in some account you can always unfollow. It is up to you. You don't need an impudent robot who, under a false statement that it cares about what you care about most, sprawls its heavy ass between your feed and the accounts you follow in order to preselect the content for you. The existence of this asshole is not the problem, the problem is that you don't have a choice and must accept his "help" in managing the content of your feed. If you don't want the asshole, leave the platform - for those to whom INSTAGRAM became an integral part of their businesses this is, after those many years, quite understandably a fascist move.
Here we meet moral washing typical of the Facebook company again. The algorithm is depicted as some entity that helps you. How honorable! But every help is in its essence something that under normal circumstances is not forced. Unless you are unconscious or mentally too inferior, an offered help is something you should have right to choose or refuse. If someone forces you to subject to something and tells you it is giving a help, the whole thing clearly smells of the familiar brown.
(My mentions of something smelling of brown, of course, involve references to the notorious fascist shirts, not references to faeces ... or, actually ... )
(Just to ensure authenticity, I am not paid by anyone for publishing this; I publish my honest opinion.)
(Morally driven corporate capitalism can sit, in my opinion, next to the mermaid in the cartoon above. It seems to me that the corporate culture taking the fast enough growth as the supreme Go(o)d and its shape of a very complex mechanism establish the crude purpose of a corporation to keep making and growing its financial profit. So, maybe it might make a very good sense for a company to keep being smaller!)
Milan Soutor (@Wildflower_Samurai)
@ellophotography #photography #polemics #essay #theory #aesthetics #philosophy #documentaryphotography #socialmedia #deception #manipulation #capitalism #facebook #exploitation #fascism #art