Friday, May 13, 2022

insta who?


my "crossroads" quilt top in the fabric sudoku stage before i joined the blocks.

a photo i never posted on instagram.

this photo is relevant to my thoughts i've tried to tease out and articulate in this post because i'm at a crossroads with instragram.

instagram has been increasingly unsatisfying for me as of late. yes, it's fast and instant. people post more, respond more quickly, there are no cross-blog format communication issues (ie: no-reply bloggers), hashtags make things way searchable, there is an endless stream of inspiration, and it's all right there in my hand on my phone (where my pictures are). it makes old-school blogging seem akin to snail mail.

but i'm bugged.

a few things have brought this on.

1) instagram has recently shifted it's focus to favor videos over photos. the almighty algorithm heavily favors video posts, reels, so most people now post reels over still photos. this irritates me to no end. there are occasions when it's helpful to see a video about some aspect of quilting. but in general, when it comes to quilts, i want a still photo i can study and enlarge when needed. now i'm often like, "wait! i didn't get to see that! bring it back!" and i have to watch the video over and over to see what i was looking for, spending far more time than if i could just look at it in a still photo. 

i don't make videos to post myself, but i imagine it takes a lot more time to create videos and post them as well. ugh! who needs to spend more time on instagram? not me.

so i'm really unhappy with the shift in format. just give me quilt pictures, please.

on a related note - the algorithm itself is so dang annoying. it pushes people or posts i would like to see occasionally far more than the ones that are most interesting or important to me. the way it drops some people from my feed entirely is really frustrating. i try to regulate and limit my time on instagram through a number of self-imposed methods, one of which is following a very limited number of people. it can seem unsocial or unfriendly, but i only follow accounts that really inspire me or people i genuinely have a desire to stay connected with. being a human with limited time, that has to be a small number. then instagram goes and only shows me a portion of those people, usually the big accounts rather than my friends, who are mostly other small-time hobby quilters like me.

it just feels like a constant battle to get what i want rather than what's being pushed on me.

2) in february i went to quiltcon 2022 in phoenix with my youngest daughter. i hadn't been on IG much at all for quite a while, so i was unaware who would be attending or who's work i might be running into there. none of my best quilty friends were going or we would have talked about it. 

and i found myself not caring as much about meeting up with people who could have potentially been there as i once would have. i think that comes down to realizing that my online quilty friendships formed on instagram are much more shallow (not as deep or connected) than those i once made through blogging. 

the friendships i once formed through blogging were more communicative than the short comments allow for on insta, and therefore deeper and more meaningful. with blogging, i got to know people a lot better. for one thing, posts were generally longer (even the ones that weren't wordy) than on insta so we'd have more information about each other, the projects we were working on, and maybe even real life news. peoples' voices and personalities came through more clearly.

then there was the emailing. comments came to my inbox and i'd have back and forth email conversations with other quilters that often branched out into our personal lives, not just staying contained to our quilting.

i really feel like i knew my blog friends more and communicated with them a lot more than i do with those i've since found on insta. there are a handful of ladies i've become rather connected to through instagram since my online quilt life has moved over there. i think given the chance to communicate with these gals the way i once did with my blog friends, they'd be the same level of friend i once made. 

but circumstances being what they are, that just hasn't happened.

once apon a time i had a network of a dozen or so quilt blog friends that i regularly emailed with and another dozen or so that were in the second tier. there was a handful of gals i regularly exchanged not just emails with, but actual mail with. we'd send each other packages of fabric or quilt goodies, birthday presents or christmas cards. there was a lot more give-and-take, generous sharing going on in the blog realm. 

i eventually met five of these ladies in person while travelling. i made a point of meeting up with them when i was nearby. two of those meetings were abroad and three were at a previous quiltcon.

to date, i'm only regularly in contact with one original blog friend through means outside of the gram (hi, tracy!). we still message, email, and even text periodically. sadly, all the other relationships have come down to short comments sprinkled here and there, and a DM every once in a while.

i don't honestly know if there's a way back from this. it's not the end of the world - it's just a major shift i've noticed over the years between blogging and moving to instagram. you can maintain a level of communication on instagram, but it's not ideal for forming friendships.

3)  i've been listening to and reading "digital minimalism" by cal newport. it's got me thinking a lot about the role social media plays in my quilting and how i can most effectively meet those needs. i don't have the answers yet, for sure. but i'm thinking about it. and i'm feeling more and more like instagram might not be the best answer to my needs.

i've had my ups and downs with instagram use over the years:

 i've been sucked in too often and too long, checking way more than i should to see how well a post is doing on likes. i've found myself caring about numbers when i really don't and don't want to.

i've spent time scrolling when i could have been creating for myself instead despite my self-imposed guideline to "create before consuming" (thank you, becky higgins). sometimes there's no time left to quilt, so i've spent what little time i had looking at what other people decided to post rather than actually making something myself.

i've found myself posting just to feel involved and included, not because i had anything valuable to contribute or that needed to be recorded.

i find myself mindlessly scrolling and coming away feeling deflated and uninspired. i've noticed that limiting my engagement time and frequency actually feels better. when i only check in every so often (once a week, every few weeks), it's a lot more refreshing, and there seems to be more new content rather than a rehash of what i've been seeing.

so on the one hand, i'd really like to go back to blogging days. 

in some ways blogging took more time because it was a deeper dive - more words, more photos, more content. but i honestly think i spent less time blogging than i have on IG when i've fallen in deep.

i'm going to have to examine my intentions and goals more closely so i can get clarity on where my needs will best be served. how much social media involvement do i need in my quilting life? when i figure it out, i'll let you know.