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Instagram Though a Different Lens

I did something the other day I’m not really proud of. I opened an Instagram account.

I did it for two reasons:
1. I’ve been getting into some new bands and so much content seems to be hosted on Instagram.
2. I wanted to check out a few fitness related accounts.

My idea is a two-week trial. Instagram goes against everything I value on the internet, but I wanted to take a look at it, after several years removed, to see if it contains any content worth following.

In my experiment, I followed no one I know. Nope, not even my wife. I tried to set up a separate email account, but the bot protection/Instagram trying to verify exactly who I am blocked me twice. I ended up using an old Gmail account, which was probably linked to Facebook/Instagram over a decade ago. This has brought up a couple of questionable suggested “People I May Know”, but more on that in a minute.

I made a couple of minor posts to establish my account, but nothing too personal. I’ve kept the account limited to bands, a couple of celebrities, and the occasional real person I’ve run across but don’t know.

The ads/stories/TikTok videos are extremely annoying. I’d gladly pay to remove them, but that is never going to happen with Facebook.

At first, the suggested people I may know were all located in Europe, since most of the bands I followed originated there. But slowly, Facebook decided to pull some of that old data they still had on me and started recommending folks I haven’t seen or talked to in over ten years. People like old co-workers, a massage therapist I used to see, and someone I went to a continuing education class with. I can’t remember if I ever followed all of these people on Facebook or Instagram, but they were directly related to me and I’m sure I had their email addresses at one point. So, I guess Facebook is cross-referencing my old email address with these folks who shared their contacts.

I’ll admit, the time I’ve spent on the app has been limited, but I have been surprised at how many “real people” seem to use the app. Obviously, the content is skewed to be more positive (not many folks showing their failures on here), but when I’ve gone fishing for blogs on a say weight loss, I’ve been inundated with coaches, fitness experts, and sales pitches. When I’ve gone on Instagram, those exist, but it also seems more balanced with folks who are just documenting their own weight loss journey which is the type of content I was looking for in a blog. Ya know, just without as many words.

Some of these folks specifically mention they don’t coach or have anything to sell, and it reminds me a bit of the Non-Profit Bloggers. These are people who are taking a stand and identifying as people who are just here to communicate and share. I like that.

I used to get quite annoyed with all the food posts, but I realized that folks on a weight loss/fitness journey who are posting food pictures are creating a food diary of sorts. It’s a way to keep up with what they are eating, as well as keeping themselves accountable. While the content in itself isn’t the most interesting to me, that’s not really any different than a blog post that doesn’t interest me.

A ton of typical social media annoyances still exist, such as the narcissism of it all. Just because someone is losing weight does not make you an expert and just because someone pays you for your advice, also does not mean you know it all. Comments are quickly filled with folks trying to sale their services or promote their “brands.” I’m not sure why anyone would record themselves working out nor talking while walking. The whole selfie thing while running also confuses the hell out of me and seems ridiculous.

While slightly impressed by the quality of some things I found on Instagram, the core problem is still how it makes money. The exploitation and unethical activities of Facebook make it so hard to engage in such an app. But one thing I have realized, whether it’s reddit, Mastodon, Instagram, or any other online community, these are all tools and should not be treated as entertainment. There are ways to have a good experience on any of these communities, but you’ll need to be selective and maybe even private in doing so. Self-discipline is also key in not allowing the algorithm to pull you back in over and over.

I’m not 100% sure what is going to happen when my two weeks are up. I don’t feel like following the bands I chose is really enhancing my Instagram experience, but I do feel like a few of the fitness folks have been interesting to follow. Even if I kept the whole thing private and surfed only from a browser, I just don’t know if I could ever feel comfortable with Facebook.

I will say, I do miss interacting with my friends over social media. Sure, some of the content gets sent via text, but there is quite a bit that is lost. Sometimes, I wonder if my values and concerns about privacy and Facebook/Meta/Twitter somehow deprives me of some positive experiences that I could have.

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