I thought after eight years it would be different. That I’d changed or maybe something changed but nothing has. That’s not entirely true; it’s much worse than I remember it being.
It started sometime in July in the run-up to my Firecat show. I noticed that the gallery’s Instagram hadn’t been updated several months so I asked Stan for the login and said I’d try my hand at it. I updated the links in the bio and otherwise tidied up, then began posting. It went okay. At first.
A week or two in I started feeling that old itchy feeling. I started logging in even when I wasn’t posting anything. Looking around. I’d never cared much for Instagram in the old days; it was the methadone to Twitter’s heroin. Awkward and not user-friendly. All the evasive action necessary just to share a link to anything outside the Zuckerverse.
It’s ten times worse now. Flashing ads, autostart videos, the whole thing feels like a desperate discount mall. Everyone screaming from their virtual kiosk to LOOK LOOK LOOOOOK. But it hooked me once again.
I signed up for my own account ahead of the Buena Vista show. In the more rational moments, I justified it as the price of doing business, as everyone always says of social media; they all claim to hate it but insist it’s a necessary evil.
Soon I was spending hours editing images to suit the platform.
I’m one of those unfortunate types who can’t do much casually; I’m either in or out, off or on. Now that I was back on social media, it was a serious chunk of my life and consciousness. The trouble was the more effort I put in, the worse it felt.
The envy and jealousy are baked into the algorithm. The irritation and lack of patience as well. I found myself culling my ‘following’ list almost as soon as I’d created it. The playacting of friendship and support on the platform was making me nauseous so I found myself ‘deleting’ people I was actually friends with in real life. Nothing about this felt right.
Everyone that uses these services knows the score. They know they must perform their lives in photos and videos in such a way that both strangers and loved ones will want to be or to have what they have. No matter the level of irony or cynicism with which it’s done, it’s still a sales job and whatever the venue, I’m just a piss-poor salesman.
Even when I did a good job——a bunch of friends said they enjoyed what I put up——it felt hollow and terrible to be doing it.
But the bottom line was the bottom line. The only reason I went on Instagram was to make money and it wasn’t happening. After nearly two months, I’d sold only one picture and didn’t get a single additional subscriber to my newsletter.
On my last long bike ride back from Buena Vista on a windswept Saturday evening I decided to pull the plug. Within hours of deleting my account the itchy feeling began to subside.
Now I’m back to my tranquil easy-going self.
Guess this constitutes a happy ending to last week’s letter, though, of course, artists don’t get a cut of work sold at auction.