Why I Quit Instagram.

I’ve lost track of how long it has been, but a while ago I created my personal Instagram account. It was something I started mainly as a way of staying in touch with friends and family overseas. While Facebook is still a popular option, one could say that Instagram is one of the fastest growing apps and one that people my age (26) gravitate to the most.

I rarely posted to my personal account, but I did spend time scrolling through the black hole of the explore page. I was presented with cat videos and “instamodels” galore, but my interests also led me to search for movie and comic-book related material. Soon enough, I started following a diverse group of actors, authors and artists. I wanted to avoid the narcissistic side of Instagram, with its selfies and workout videos, and take in the real talent that the platform had to offer. I also knew that I wanted to share my own thoughts on comics and movies, just like I did on my blog and my other social media accounts.

I have never been the kind of person to get 30 likes on a facebook profile picture, so I decided that I couldn’t pursue my interests through my personal Instagram account. Thus, @moviegrapevine was born. I enjoyed the freedom to embrace my geekiness in all its glory, attracting other like-minded people and becoming part of a community that was an audience for my writing and also motivated me creatively. I later followed up with a second account specifically for my creative writing, @wmoviegrapevine.

The purpose of the Instagram accounts was to direct more traffic to my blog and my YouTube channel. I became hypnotized by likes, and the odd comment, thinking that this surely equated to more readership and more views. It was actually Twitter that made me realize the truth. I have posted links to articles before. Three likes, so I must have three views on the article. I then check the article’s stats, and the article has no views. Even with a less visual medium, people still like or even retweet material that they have not truly engaged with. A like on Twitter or Instagram does not equal another view of your base: the blog, YouTube channel etc. that Instagram is intended to be a funnel for.

Of course this seems obvious now, and I was never naive enough to think that everyone liking my posts was also reading my blog. However, I had a small group of followers who consistently liked my posts and there was the assumption that they must be reading my material. However, the analytics for my site made it clear that wasn’t true. That harsh truth also made me look at my own behaviour on Instagram. There were plenty of accounts I followed, and consistently liked, that had their own related sites or videos. I always said that I would check out their content, and then I never did. This wasn’t due to any apathy or malice on my part, it was simply due to the abundance of books, websites and videos that already take up my time. Speaking of time, I was spending more of it scrolling through my explore page, spending twenty minutes on Instagram when my intention was to log on and post within five minutes.

All of the above realizations led me to realize that Instagram was only a big distraction. I had to analyze if my extra data usage, and the associated costs, were really worth it. I had a few hundred followers, which was still paltry in the grand scheme of things. Additionally, the followers I had weren’t actually engaging with the material on my website or my YouTube channel. Ultimately, my accounts were not meeting their goals. All they succeeded in was giving me validation. I could post art or a picture that I liked, and have other people express their approval. I could post a short poetry piece or an excerpt from my book and have people compliment it. None of this meant they would be interested in anything I shared outside of Instagram, but for a while that didn’t matter. Ignorance was coupled with bliss and I lived under the illusion that my distraction was a sign of productivity, and that it actually meant something. It took me too long to realize that it didn’t. It was a diversion; from my other works and my other platforms.

I can’t say it’s Instagram’s fault, it is the fault of my attention span. Now I want to redirect that attention span to my Facebook and Twitter, while I continue to blog and work on my fourth book.

Updates

Hello everyone,

Likely won’t be posting again until Monday so I thought I would wrap up this week with some updates.

Firstly, analytics are now installed and they reveal that my instagram accounts and other social media have barely helped to increase readership. I got caught in the trap of assuming that vanity metrics (followers, retweets etc.) equaled engagement. If you are a reader or a user who has joined through social media, it is much appreciated.

There are times when I have tweeted a link to an article and assumed that everyone who liked the post must have read it. Checking the amount of “link clicks” then makes it clear that some people just liked the tweet and ignored the link. Maybe a certain word caught their attention. I had one post that criticized girls who “like hockey players“. It seems like a bunch of girls just saw the words “hockey players” and thought “I like hockey players!” before liking the tweet.

Although my dream is to make a living writing full-time my more practical career goal is to become involved in public relations. PR emphasizes the importance of social media for increasing visits to a website and increased engagement. Although there are many successful examples of this, it appears that I need to take my own website as an object lesson of a social media campaign that has yielded poor results. I’m going to have to look into the steps I need to take to convert more twitter followers and Instagram users into readers of the website. It is great to have an audience on other platforms, but my original goal was to create one large audience instead of multiple, splintered ones.

On to less depressing material… I finished reading 100 Bullets and will be writing a short review for comicommand over the weekend.  I am currently reading Preacher and the first five issues already have me hooked. I might check out the tv show afterwards.

For those reading this, have a great weekend.

Updates

Hello everyone,

I wrote a new article for comicommand that should hopefully be posted to the site later today. Once it is up there I’ll also post it here so you can check it out.

I am going to be working more aggressively at converting instagram followers to visitors of the site. I realized that I was too caught up in vanity metrics for a while, focusing on followers and not even tracking visits to the site, to see if they were increasing. Perhaps I made the assumption that followers would check out the site but I realize that is a carless assumption. I have found instagram users unfollow accounts quicker than users of any other platform I use (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube). This also indicates that some of them may be engaging with the content at a very superficial level. Of course, I don’t want to insult any of my followers, and if you are a follower visiting the site, I appreciate it. My point is that I don’t want to get caught up in the chase for followers and lose sight of the purpose of the instagram account- getting more traffic to the site.

I recently tried to install Google analytics, which requires inputting the code into a footer of the site. However, I found that I had issues uploading images once I added the footer plugin. Once I removed the plugin, I could add images again. Images can seem superficial too, but they help to break up the longer blog posts. A lot of research and experimentation indicates that pictures do make it more likely people will read a blog post, instead of skimming it or avoiding it entirely. Then again, the incident from last week shows that there are people whose attention spans are too short even when pictures are included.

I’ll have to look into other ways to add analytics to the site so that I can monitor user traffic better. I was able to use the service briefly and saw that one person was online. I wondered if the site was just monitoring me, but it did say the person was in the UK. Fortunately, it’s not just me reading the site. Then again, it could have been the creator of comicommand, since he lives in the UK.

 

 

 

Def Jam Poetry- My First Great Inspiration

Yesterday, I reposted a small excerpt from Gemini’s “Penny For Your Thoughts” on my writing instagram, @wmoviegrapevine. Since I am currently occupied trying to get an academic journal article published, I have been doing less writing for my second novel. However, I am also at a roadblock for my second novel, in terms of where to continue with the story. I have about 50,000 words at the moment but need another 30,000 for the novel to be an acceptable length for science-fiction. As I tried to brainstorm and dig myself out of this rut, my mind drifted back to what motivated me to write initially. I have been writing fiction since I was ten (not saying it was good, or is good), but I started taking writing much more seriously during Grade 12 in my writer’s craft class.

By this time I had finished a rough draft of my first novel, Elseworld, but had it sitting for years: not editing, or trying to get it published. My teacher shared def jam poetry with us and I began working on Elseworld again the next day.

 

This is the first piece I can remember seeing, and many more came after that. We were seeing people share brilliant work in front of an audience, but not for any real fame or glamour. Their lyrics aren’t in a song playing on 106& Park. They did it for the love of the craft. This is one of the most important lessons I keep coming back to. Sometimes it is discouraging to keep writing. After years of trying I have no published work and for all I know, 0 people read my average blog post. However, I realize I have to keep writing for myself. To maintain and sharpen my skills. To keep creative juices flowing and maybe even to show a prospective publisher that I am not just another person who wants to be a writer but doesn’t want to put the work in.

That was my attitude when I convinced my mom to buy me a guitar when I was in grade eight. I started listening to rock music religiously that year, Franz Ferdinand, Muse, Kaiser Chiefs etc. I wanted to be like the people on my ipod (2005, I’m getting old). Once I got the guitar I had no patience to learn slowly. I thought I’d pick it up and be playing solos in a few weeks. Frankly, I was a stupid kid seeking glory without hard work. Now, I have picked up the guitar again and still struggle to practice sometimes. Lessons are probably one of the only things pushing me to practice at the moment, since I want to show improvement when I go in week after week. Of course, my mom does not want me to sell the guitar, and I feel like that would be a betrayal at this point. I made my bed and I must now lie in it, pushing myself to tackle a chore.

I may be struggling to finish my second book now, but I know I’ll never struggle like I have with the guitar. Writing can be a lot to manage at times, but I do love the thrill of creating my characters, my world and pulling the strings. I do hope that I can one day make a living doing this, and I will work towards that goal. If not, I’ll keep doing it anyway. I might be the person in the retirement home telling nurses about his dreams, but I know I will never regret the pursuit of my dream.

The Validation Machine

Our society is crumbling under a new epidemic,

This is not a sickness that comes and goes, like the flu,

Or one that will have its time in the spotlight before it’s overcome, like Ebola,

We are dealing with a disease that will mutate and become the black plague of this generation,

A renaissance will not follow the plague this time,

This disease will bring us out of our renaissance and into the dark ages,

The disease has many forms and is known by many names,

There are many ways for it to be transmitted, but there is one that I want to target,

The disease is narcissism and the instrument of transmission is social media,

 

Blaming social media is too simplistic though,

The disease starts before we are even old enough to use it,

We have parents who tell their kids that they are great at everything,

That every terrible piece of art they present is astounding,

That every participation ribbon they receive is the mark of a champion,

These children grow into teens, who aren’t ready for the real world,

The real world doesn’t coddle them the same way their parents did,

They face failure, rejection and disappointment,

With these experiences, the disgruntled teen faces two options

1) Embrace the challenges and become a better person for doing so, letting these experiences become lessons

2)   Or they can let these experiences crush their confidence, leading to a path of insecurity and overcompensation

 

Most people opt for the second option

All hail social media,

 

Likes, comments= validation,

The teen in still insecure,

They have not truly accomplished anything that gives them real confidence,

Titles like “model” are hollow,

They don’t work with an agency,

All their pictures and ‘profound’ thoughts aren’t part of a wider effort to promote work they have created or a brand they are developing,

Their bodies, their vapid minds are the totality of their brand,

I do not want to focus on women either,

Men are guilty of this attention seeking as well, either through posting pictures or pining for women in other pictures,

 

Men desperately seek their own validation: attention from the opposite sex, maybe even the same sex

Yet these same men will be taken aback when people they talk to are stuck up and rude,

Don’t spend your free time inflating someone’s ego with likes and comments, and then be surprised when they develop a superiority complex,

You may not talk to all the same people you follow and like on social media,

But you must realize that most people you speak to are on the quest for validation,

They will have their own horde of adoring men and women who make things worse for you,

This horde gives them the ego needed to disregard the people they speak to in real life,

We are all part of the cycle of insecurity, validation and narcissism,

When society crumbles this time,

It won’t be due to a great war,

It will be an insidious disease that slowly stripped away the foundations of hard work, civility and resilience,