A new chant among the artists: “We practically gave up Instagram”

Special for Infobae of New York Times.

SAN FRANCISCO — On Instagram, Deb JJ Lee forged a career in illustration, publishing colorful comics.

Some of the comics Lee, 26, posted on the photo-sharing site told stories about fantasy worlds; others reflected on Lee’s experiences as a Korean American. Lee, who prefers the pronoun “elle,” says that without her Instagram, she wouldn’t be illustrating graphic novels or publishing picture books.

Yet seven years, hundreds of posts, and tens of thousands of followers later, Lee’s relationship with Instagram has cooled, not because he no longer needs social media to promote his art, but because the app has changed so much that it seems to have stopped. to welcome the artists.

According to Lee, the changes “have been nothing short of detrimental to artists, especially those producing still images.”

Instagram was founded in 2010 as a photo sharing site where people could post, organize, and showcase snapshots of their lives. It became a destination for an endless variety of beautiful, fun, quirky, and dynamic images (of food, national parks, and everything in between), becoming one of the internet’s leading visual repositories.

However, in recent years, Instagram, which is already owned by Meta, has become increasingly geared towards video. It included Reels, short videos meant to compete with TikTok, a video-sharing app, and has launched features to encourage people to make videos together. Apparently their algorithms favor videos over photos. Last year, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, commented that the site was “no longer a photo-sharing app.”

This has caused the anguish of many Instagram users who have used the application to share photos, illustrations, comics and other still images with friends and followers. In July, after Instagram included updates to mimic TikTok’s video features, celebrities like Kylie Jenner and others rioted, declaring their intention to “make Instagram go back to what it was.” The backlash was so intense that Instagram temporarily reversed the changes.

For the artists who make their living through this app, the platform’s move to video is more of an existential threat. Many of these artists are photographers, illustrators, or graphic novelists whose work doesn’t translate easily to video. Increasingly, Instagram audiences are not seeing your posts, or your growth on the platform is stagnant and your reach is reduced.

Some young artists who might have started their careers on Instagram are venturing out to try photo-sharing membership apps like VSCO and Glass. Others are exploring professional-oriented platforms like Behance and LinkedIn, or other social media apps like Twitter and TikTok.

“Right now, Twitter is much more important than Instagram,” Lee said. They now spend most of their energy on Twitter, where they say it’s easier to tell the scope of a post.

In a statement, Meta stated that he cared “quite a lot for all creators, including artists.” The Silicon Valley company, which is trying to wean content creators away from the competition of YouTube and TikTok, has invited some artists to join its programs that pay influencers to use their products.

However, Lee, who was recently invited by Instagram to earn a bonus for posting reels, noted that the incentives were “even less stable than freelance illustration.” Even if her reels received 11 million views in a month, she explained, Meta would only pay her $1,200.

Maddy Mueller, 25, who illustrates infographics and designs backgrounds for animation, knew she would have to promote herself through social media after graduating from college in 2019. She joined Instagram to post her work.

However, Mueller explained that using the app to try to draw attention to his art soon became “an uphill battle” against the algorithm. He added that he often felt that the number of tags on a post, or the time it was posted, was more important than the content of the post.

To publicize his work on Instagram, he began animating his works, which he envisioned as still images at first, so that his posts would be treated as videos. Promoting her art meant less time to create it, she said.

Last year, Mueller, who lives in St. Louis, began focusing on Twitter, where he discovered a thriving community of artists. She was invited to illustrate zines, joined private Discord groups that shared job opportunities, and grew her following through tag events, where artists tweeted and shared content with tags like #PortfolioDay and #VisibleWomen, on which highlighted various works and women artists, respectively.

Mueller now has almost 5,000 followers on Twitter, compared to 1,000 on Instagram.

Additionally, he noted that once he was introduced to the community and growth that Twitter offered, he “practically gave up on Instagram.”

The changes have also made Instagram a harder place to find illustrators to hire, said Chad Beckerman, art director and agent for the CAT Agency, which represents children’s book illustrators. He said it used to be easy to search for illustrators on the app and see their work, but now the platform is cluttered with irrelevant posts, reels and “stories,” a feature people use to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.

The algorithm “doesn’t look for quality,” Beckerman said. “I don’t think the algorithm even cares what the person’s job is like.”

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