A Reflection on Instagram as an Artist
and why it's just plain terrible

I had quit Instagram twice in the past - once in 2017, and once again in 2018. I had no idea why I thought it was a good idea to try and start up another art account again in 2020. Maybe I thought it would go well this time around?

And who would have thought it actually was worse. I sure didn't think so. I forgot the hell which I had signed up for those 2-3 years ago until I picked it back up again and I've been reminded of the life-sucking experience of being a creator on Instagram.

This is mainly a reminder to myself to never go back on Instagram ever again. But maybe this could be of use to people who may want to think about starting an account or maybe thinking twice. Possibly even those who want to quit Instagram.

So, let's get started.

Instagram's posting algorithm is not built for artists

Essentially, Instagram favours users who post on a daily basis. 1-2 posts a day seems to be the sweet spot to steadily increase your followers and engagement overtime. The thing is, 1-2 posts a day would kill an artist. I know I was beginning to lose my mind when I tried speeding up to the algorithm's pace. Adam Duff made a great video regarding this and I highly recommend it to artists who are struggling with social media.

The thing with this daily posting thing is that it caters not to artists, but your run-of-the-mill user whose quality of posts can be absolutely abysmal. A user who posts a photo of their cat twice a day for a month will gain more traction than that amazing artist who's posting once a week (assuming they started an account at the same time).

It was made apparent to me that IG was a social platform first and art-sharing platform probably being last. It is a terrible platform for artists to try and gain exposure on, because they'll kill themselves trying to keep up with Instagram's demands for posting daily content. The fact that it is an image-based social media does not mean that it is good for artists. It wasn't really built for artists in mind, and the changes in the algorithm reflect that even further.

Of course, if follower growth isn't one's concern then this shouldn't matter. But the problem is that Instagram taps into the very psychology which makes us crave for this sort of thing. It makes us think that we have control, and then it backhands us with unpredictable algorithmic behaviour and us artists inevitably get blasted for it.

Consistency > Experimentation

This may not be a problem for some artists, but this was a big problem for me. And possibly beginner artists as well who are still trying to figure out what they want to do.

This is less about Instagram but more about people in general: we like consistency. If we start following a user on Instagram because they always draw pretty Pinterest girls, then we should expect that they would be always posting those types of artwork on their Instagram. There is this confusion when suddenly that artist starts posting contemporary or abstract art. People will be taken aback. And this typically prompts an unfollow, or even mass unfollowing.

And because of this, the platform doesn't encourage creativity. In fact, it stunts it. Experimenting is not encouraged because people like things being consistent. I've been terrified before of posting abstract pieces on my IG when I had built a following based on some other particular subject matter.

This desire of consistency is why artists who are already well-established win big on Instagram. Professionals who already fill their niche at a world-class level will gain more exposure than those who haven't quite figured that out. Of course, their skill level will attract people for sure, but this puts other artists in a dilemma: they are pressured to pick a niche early, before they have even tested the waters.

The thing with these niches is that they take years, even a lifetime to really find. An artist has certain inclinations as to which direction they want to take with their art, but for a majority of artists this is very general. I myself gravitated toward visual storytelling through illustrations, but that is extremely vague. What stories would I be telling? What medium should I be making my art in? Those are some specific questions which are often asked way too early in an artist's journey.

If one gets caught up with the act of gaining a following way too early, it can really affect one's growth as an artist. A beginner artist should be experimenting with what feels natural to them, what they like to create, etc. They should not be burdening themselves with questions they don't even know the answer to. Of course, I encourage artists to experiment with other mediums, but they shouldn't commit to one before knowing exactly what they are getting into. And that is what platforms such as Instagram are catering to: those who have figured out what niche they are in and consistently fill that role.

Artists are already having a hard time creating ideas and going through art block. Pigeonholing their content to a singular subject just makes the situation worse, and these platforms do nothing but put artists into these boxes that they can't get out of without sacrificing their hard-earned following in the process.

Art reposters and thieves

Thieves are just everywhere in the art community, so Instagram is not the only platform plagued by them. But what I've seen is that art reposters are rampant on both Instagram and Pinterest.

Art reposters are basically accounts which take other people's art (oftentimes without permission) and post it on their own account. The thing with these accounts is that they capitalize extremely well on the niche market. Why? Because it is so easy to curate content that fulfills a particular niche. Curation is undoubtedly easier than creation, and that is why these reposters have such an easy time gaining a massive following. These reposters essentially cherry pick from artists which suits their art repost account well, and just start raking in the clout. It's the literal definition of robbery.

For example, I've seen a lot of anime art reposters, and that is so stupidly easy to do it is not even funny. You can go to Pixiv or search up pieces from the #animeart tag on Instagram and just start reposting all of the posts from there and you've got yourself an anime art repost account. Now replace "anime" with any sort of subject matter relating to art and you begin to see the problem.

What absolutely disgusts me is that these reposters typically gain more exposure than the artists who they are taking from, with little to no effort on their part. They always say that they're "exposing" these artists to a wider audience, but they don't even credit said artists on their reposts. You get hit with the "DM me for artist" instead of a link to the artist's profile, or you get the "credit goes to the artist!" instead of linking to the actual artist. The audacity of these people truly transcends human comprehension.

And they do this bait-and-switch tactic where the post will have the reposter's account linked at the very top with the original artist's account at the very bottom of the caption, which leads unsuspecting people to believe that the art reposter's account is the original artist. It is just completely reprehensible behaviour.

It honestly got tiring for me to see a nice art piece, liking it, then doing a double-take and asking "wait, is this from the original artist?" Then I'd find that it was indeed a repost. And what I would do is that I'll go to the original artist's post to like it and then unlike the reposter's post. I just don't condone that behaviour. Problem is, when there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of art reposters, it starts getting really confusing. Heck, you've got art reposters competing against other art reposters, and they are posting literally the same exact artwork. Then you've got art reposters reposting another art reposter's repost, which makes getting to the original artist even more difficult. What is going on with this platform, honestly?

So in short: not recommended. I hate it.

I could go on and on about the other problems with Instagram. Mainly its slot-machine inspired design and how our brains are affected substantially by it, but I decided to keep it solely on posting art on Instagram for this particular post. Maybe I'll make a second part? I don't know. Probably. Stay tuned for that I guess.

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