The problem with Instagram alternatives

I’ve been a long-time subscriber and fan of Craig Mod’s newsletter. In the latest edition he has some really interesting thoughts on Instagram, and social media in general:

Instagram will only get more complex, less knowable, more algorithmic, more engagement-hungry in 2019.

I want to have a place very far apart from that, where I can post photos on my own terms. Not have an algorithm decide which of my posts is best. And I don’t want to be rewarded for being anodyne, which is what these general algorithms seem to optimize for: things that are easily digestible, firmly on the scale of “fine, just fine.” It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the more boring stuff we shove into our eyeballs, the more boring our taste becomes.

I’ve long since deleted my Facebook account, but in what has become a fairly familiar form of hypocrisy in myself and many of my friends, I’ve stubbornly held on to Instagram. I’ve toyed with Sunlit in conjunction with as an option, but as with most of the Instagram “alternatives” out there, the network effect simply isn’t there.

The other important distinction is that I see a major difference between photographers and Photographers (capital P). Craig is a Photographer, so it makes sense for him to be way more thoughtful and concerned about where he shares his photos. I mostly post pictures of whatever vinyl I’m listening to, so it’s not exactly high art.

Which brings me to an even bigger question… what is the purpose of sharing photos for small-p photographers? For me, I want to connect with people I know, make them part of my life, maybe influence their music taste a little bit. And I want to see similarly mundane things about their lives. And that is why starting a photography newsletter like Craig — or moving to Sunlit — isn’t really an option for me. Because I need to use the thing where my people are at.

I just wish the thing I have to use was less yucky. I’d absolutely pay a monthly fee to remove the yucky parts.