Why do you need (my) Instagram?
Or why I’m not on Instagram despite being a science communicator, and don't need to be.
I was a panelist at an event in my city yesterday on space writing & journalism. It was nice, with lots of enthusiastic folks in the audience who had some good questions. However, literally everyone who engaged with me was trying to search my profile on Instagram. When they found out I don’t exist on the platform, they were startled.
This was the case even after the session, where my blog was explicitly introduced and talked about! It’s the latest example of people just not understanding that they can simply follow my space blog directly, without a controlling actor in between. Not only was trying to follow me on Instagram their first instinct, exactly zero of them followed my space blog.
Why is everyone obsessed with following people on a big social drug platform of their choice and that alone? A friend mentioned they were just “curious about my life” i.e. they wanted to stalk me. Yeah, good luck with that.
Okay, but why am I not on Instagram? “Despite being a science communicator”, one person at the event pointed out.
Well, for one, Instagram isn’t where my actual “content” is. My writing lives on my blogs and the publications I write for, not in the meager post descriptions of a platform that won’t even allow me to link to my articles.
Even if I wanted to, the nature of my work automatically implies an impossibility of existing as original posts on Instagram. For example, any of my Moon Monday newsletters or ‘popular science’ articles contains at least a dozen links as references and citations. There’s no way you can replicate that in an Instagram post. Or even a YouTube video for that matter.
People frequently tell me that I’m not supposed to use Instagram that way or how it can be a mere tool to direct people to my blog. I’ve already addressed in a previous article how the latter argument is ineffective and unethical in the context of Instagram so let me add a lesser known personal point.
I used to have an active presence on Instagram for a couple of years. When I reviewed my space blog stats to see where my subscribers are coming from, as I do at the end of every year, Instagram had literally just gotten me two (friend) subscriptions in those two years. I’ve also previously handled Instagram accounts for a tech company and a research institute, each with large follower counts. Their conversion stats weren’t very different either. I’ve heard similarly low conversion rates from many of my creator or “influencer” friends, including for companies they work for.
Instagram has built the biggest, most efficient walled garden of all, to limit the ability of people to leave the platform and its feeds. If you’re a creator, you should analyze your work and goals to see if Instagram is actually as effective as you perceive it to be, and re-consider the sheer amount of time you put into it. There’s a good chance you’ll find that you aren’t growing but getting increasingly stuck.
Coming to the social factor, I also hate how shallow people are when on Instagram, or rather how the platform’s attention-economy-based business exploits people’s instincts at a fundamental level to make them behave that way. Even browsing posts there depresses me so why on Earth would I willingly submit myself to its (intentionally) infinite stream of manipulative popularity contests?
Lastly, I’m asocial. I simply have no interest in interacting with most people. I have a few friends and I’m happy to connect with them personally and directly. Neither of us need to see each other’s Instagram stories and reply—nay, pseudo-react—just to show that we care.
So yeah, fuck Instagram.
Sometimes I legit hate living in this time. I often think about how 31st century civilization will consider the Internet we use as the utterly barbaric Web.