Is Instagram Stifling our Creativity?

I have a funny relationship with Instagram at the moment. Scrolling through my feed, everything looks the same and honestly, I’m becoming bored. Perhaps I’m not following the right people, but the images I’m seeing at the moment just don’t seem to have any spark. There’s nothing new and exciting popping up.

I spoke about this on my feed last week, commenting on how the sameness that I’m talking about is down to the algorithm. More specifically, it’s down to individual users trying to beat the algorithm by posting the images that they think it wants to see. This means a lot of repetition. If an image has performed particularly well for you, you then feel pressured to replicate the image over and over again. You know your followers like it, you know the algorithm likes it - but are you stifling your creativity?

I’m a viewer of feeds on Instagram. I love scrolling through an individual’s feed, delighting in a uniformed aesthetic and a variety of content. My favourite kind of feed to follow is one that does just that: shares a variety of themes of content with a distinct overall look. While writing this blog post, I took some time to look over a selection of feeds of people that I follow (and a few that I don’t). I noticed SO MUCH repetition. One person basically replicated their top nine images over and over again, constantly sharing the same views, same corners of her home and frankly, the exact same photos time after time. Another had re-posted the exact same image from a month ago, I assume because it performed so well the first time around.

There’s nothing wrong with this - everyone is free to use Instagram in their own way, and both of these people have much larger followings than my own. It just makes me feel a little glum. After all, I first fell in love with Instagram for its capacity to inspire. I loved scrolling through all of the beautiful images and finding new and exciting things. I appreciate that you may only have one photogenic corner of your home or don’t have the ability to travel often to find new locations, but there is so much more that you can do with what surrounds you.

I’m no saint, of course. I have re-posted images, although only after a year has gone by since they were originally used. The same tropes appear again and again in my photos. And my content isn’t exactly ground-breaking. Flowers for Spring? Pretty predictable. But for me, photography is about capturing the world around you, and that world is constantly evolving. You don’t need to wear a different outfit for each photo or seek out a multitude of locations - just try a different angle or a new perspective. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. So what if it bombs - it isn’t the end of the world if you get slightly less Instagram likes.

This is what it all comes down to, of course. Likes, and reassurance. We want people to like our photographs because we need to feel like we are doing well. Popularity is important, and we want to feel justification for taking photos and sharing them online. If people like our photographs, that gives us permission to share more. This is why people buy likes and cheat to get ahead; they feel a need to look popular.

All this talk of Instagram removing likes, so only you can see how many likes a photo has gained, really excites me. Imagine an Instagram that isn’t governed by likes, where you can share any photos you want without feeling the pressure of being popular. Free from the tyranny of obsessing over the number counter go up, users will no longer feel like slaves to the algorithm. If this happens, we could hope to see a variety of content, with more creativity.

That may or not happen, but there are still things that we can do to help our feeds to stand out from the crowd. The first, and most important, way to do this is to stop obsessing over the algorithm and free yourself from worrying about numbers. This doesn’t mean that you have to completely shun your most popular content, rather scatter it among different shots that you want to share regardless of the likes. For me, photographs of flowers and countryside scenes usually perform well - but that is'n’t everything that I want to share. I enjoy taking photographs of my home, my outfits and elements of my daily life. I sometimes wish to be more experimental with my photography - sometimes that pays off, like my bokeh images from last year, but other times it falls flat on its face. I’ve been known to archive a photo in the past because I’ve felt embarrassed at how little likes it has achieved. No more! I’m committing myself to sharing the images I love, regardless of how popular they may be.

Ironically, the photos I have chosen to share on this post are exactly those that I know would perform well on my Instagram feed. I love photographing flowers and nature, and don’t intend to change this. I just want to spread myself a little wider and share a wider variety of images.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Do you think I’m being harsh - or do you agree that we’ve become so focused on likes that we’ve lost our creativity?