When I got asked to write this article I had very mixed feelings. I thought it was an important topic to write about especially as a queer artist who was banned already from Instagram and Facebook, but I also know and see how much Instagram gives the queer community. And I seriously asked myself. Is this true? Should queer people really need to leave Instagram? Back when I lost all of my Social Media platforms I was devastated. I lost all my contacts, my community and my source of income. But very shortly after the devastation came a very real sense of relief. First I couldn’t place it. I wasn’t able to understand why it felt so good to be free of Instagram and Facebook.
I started reading into the platforms and the implications it has on us and our surrounding. I read books and watched documentaries and slowly understood that the platforms I loved and participated in regularly were not actually here to serve me, but rather to serve the big company it belongs to. It was tracking my every move and making sure I stayed on the platform longer and longer, to then be able to sell my data to third parties. Making me the product of a system that I never willingly said yes to.
Instagram uses our bodies, our creativity and our ideas to make us into products of their own business. With every post you make you feed the algorithm and the business behind it. With every post you look at you feed the algorithm and the business behind it.
Instagram makes this happen by: - guiding you towards specific content that you particularly like (by placing you in your particular circle of people and interests) - making you believe that certain content that you post is better than others (shiny rainbow glitter images are better than you in your pj’s) - promoting doomsday scrolling (the longer you scroll the better for them) - provoking discussions by not implementing censoring (why do you think they are able to be so good in censoring women’s nipples but can’t seem to find a code that censors hateful comments?) - and many more tactics like, likes and hearts and shares and saves that keep you busy and interacting.
So here is where the difficulties start. Because of all these rules and interactions we mostly see images that are particularly interesting to us. Those are either beautiful (from our own specific view) or because they are particularly controversial and get us fired up. These kinds of posts are the ones that get the most engagement and are therefore the most interesting to the companies and their databanks.
We see gorgeously trained super bodies, ridiculously happy queer couples, passionately self-loving fat humans, or seriously proud trans people. Or on the other hand high pitched discussions about homophobia, sexism or cancel culture. Because that is what the platform mostly promotes and makes the best money with.
So why is this so problematic?
The issue I see is that we are being overloaded on the one hand with these idealistic images, that only show the reality of split-second of a person's life, making us believe that these moments apply to their whole life and on the other hand see difficult discussions that are either hurtful and frustrating or out of our reach because we don’t have the capability to participate (it takes place in another country, we don’t have enough knowledge, we are wrapped up in own shit).
Plus they are very often posted by people that are far more ahead in their personal, political or business development, which makes it impossible to compare us with them, but of course, we do anyway. So, we are caught in a net of jealousy and overload which makes many of us feel paralyzed and desperate. Why is my life not like that? Why am I not able to make the world a better place?
Especially in the queer community, this can cause an issue. As much as it serves a queer person to see other queer people (especially when living in the countryside with not one queen around), it also hurts us as well.
We can flourish and connect to others, exchange thoughts, see other people's realities and understand that we are not alone in the struggle. But it can also cause struggle and desperation over the powerlessness of our own situation. And there is nothing much we can do about this twisted situation.
The only way to counter it is by strictly curating the feed. Making sure that only those people are on there that we can truly connect with, ideally not only by looking at images but also by sharing stories in the DM’s. Reembracing the platform as one of interaction and communication instead of only observation.
The other is to leave Instagram whenever you can and go out into the world to connect to your community in the real world. Digitally by looking for alternative platforms just for your city or country (like Kweer Social in Switzerland) or physically by reaching out to your friends and supporting your queer organizations wherever you possibly can.
So should we leave Instagram?
No. There is still some value in the beautiful diversity we see on the platform and especially if you feel like you are all alone, it is a way to find people that you can identify with and look up to. Similar to the queer character in your favourite TV show, you can look on Instagram for representation.
Yes. Because as much as we might see this diversity we mostly can’t interact with it. You can see and admire your favourite queer character on TV but you can’t exchange thoughts with them. It stays an ideal in your head and the way to break through it is to leave Instagram and find your place in a world where people are real and reachable and available.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
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About Andrea Vollgas
Vollgas (translated: full throttle) stands for Andrea Vollgas. A queer, feminist artist, illustrator, storyteller. Andrea questions the "norm" and celebrates unique perspectives through visual storytelling.
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