Why I “left” Instagram

When I first started taking pictures, I did so because I loved the process. I loved capturing images and, as a ridiculously nostalgic person, I loved paging through them. Reliving history. Basking in a sense of pride that I made something, even if the something I made wasn’t that great.

I didn’t just take pictures for me, though. I did it for my family and my friends. I took pictures so they could be seen. And there was a service that handled my pictures perfectly: Flickr.

I paid for the Pro account. I became involved in the community. I posted things to groups and commented on pictures from people I knew and people I didn’t know and will never know. I was a full out Flickr supporter – there was no site I used more.

And then things went mobile.

Things went mobile at the same time that, for our family, life became cluttered. I took fewer pictures with the Canon, but, as luck would have it, the cameras on my phone improved to the point that I could socially share at closer to the same quality as I was posting on Flickr. Photo editing fell behind, and quick snaps picked up. Eventually, posting to Flickr became an every-three-months exercise in marathon editing, ending in a glut of pictures that no one had time to look at.

I never used Flickr to be social, at least not in the way social media works these days. I never used Flickr to take quick picks and save them for use across Facebook or Twitter – to me, Flickr was a walled garden.

I didn’t neglect Flickr because I wanted to be more mobile. It’s just that my life had changed to the detriment of the service. I didn’t need Flickr as much as I used to. Instead, I turned to Instagram as a placeholder. A place to post the pictures I still longed to take, compressed and filtered and fast.

So when the Instagram terms of service update came down, I wasn’t as upset as others. I didn’t swear off the service and threaten to delete everything if they didn’t change. I hated their response to the outcry, but it wasn’t enough for me to cut ship and row away. I’m not dumb. I know that if we’re not paying for a service, that service is getting something from us in return – our data, our rights, our likeness, our implicit word.

Mostly, it was just bad timing for Instagram.

Flickr had released a new app a few days earlier. It was everything they should have done years ago. It had the same power and sharing capabilities as Instagram – a little more cluttered, but a lot better at showing the full scope of a set in one glance instead of an endless line of one-off images.

But it came with something else: my history. My past images, all in one place. My Flickr friends – many who also had never gone away. We had all returned. Some of us had never left.

There’s no need for two image apps on my phone. So I went with the one I loved the most.

I didn’t leave Instagram because of the new terms of use. I didn’t leave because they had suggested they were going to sell my stuff. I didn’t leave because they talked down to me in a response, and I’m not that concerned about their policy rollback. I technically haven’t left at all.

When it comes down to it, I abandoned Instagram. And I did so because I missed Flickr.

This was lovingly handwritten on December 20th, 2012