Fleeing from Instagram maze

When it's free to use a product or service, you are the biggest product.

Mon Feb 12 2024

A few months ago I've criticised the new story feature in Telegram and I thought it was created to compete with Instagram story in terms of getting active users and a share of the huge social media market.

It turned out this feature had recently became my favourite and I was wrong in my judgement on the story feature in Telegram. It might be just a wonderful thing for me to enjoy what social media should be in this explosive information era. Let me explain why.

At the very beginning this story feature was only open to Telegram Premium users, which was the main monetisation model for Telegram to open up a subscription channel so they can cope with the operational cost. In return the subscribers get perks and benefits such as more customisations to their telegram chats, faster uploading speed, larger file limits, et cetera. I was thinking something such as “if I could use the service for free and it’s already powerful enough for me to use daily without these customisation features, why would I pay for additional perks that I may not even care to use?”

Things changed dramatically when I started to notice how frustrating it is to use Instagram by then.

As Jerry Gogosian wrote in his article “Social Media Weapon”:

Every picture of a friend you actually follow is spaced out by 4-8 advertisements, as well as several related accounts you don’t follow. Where are my friends? Where are their paintings? Where I the weirdness I love so much online? It’s buried. You don’t even get to see your friend’s babies or lattes anymore. The era is long gone.

We don’t have many choices when facing the fact that the product we are using daily is getting crappier with annoying advertisements and promoted content, to an extent that we are seeing more what we do not wish to see than what we are expecting to see there. It is not just simply annoying, it feels like an invasion to our personal life and time. At the end of the day the time of our own is ruthlessly eaten by commercials and promotions online that you won’t give a shit of, and even just simply ignoring them is getting ridiculously harder nowadays (TikTok is another perfect example).

That’s the moment when I decided to take a break from the overwhelming Instagram life. I turned off the notification and set app-specific limit in screen time setting, hoping I’d spend less time browsing endless ads and non-relevant content that do not help me at all.

It’s not enough. It is just pure evil that Meta is turning ourselves into its products, digging huge potential of drop-shipping and marketplace thing. The more time we spend, even just thinking about it, the more it will learn from our habit and behaviours and improve its algorithm to target more accurate promoted content to us. We are exchanging our time with their profit that don’t even go into our own pocket, we are burning our time for Meta for free. We are the free products.

I decided to try something different this time.

My friend gifted me three-month Telegram premium subscription from Xmas last year and it was activated instantly. I’ve dig deeper into its story feature.

It’s still pretty primitive: there’s no direct sharing from app or website to story as what Instagram is capable of; there’s no direct tagging feature in the story design except for description section; the doddle feature is very responsive and fun, not-so-surprisingly, given how fluid and smooth interactions and animations are across the whole Telegram app. The list goes on and on, there’s still a lot to refine and polish.

You know what’s the most important thing? There’s no ads. NONE.

I felt I’m back to the days when Instagram was born as a simple social media platform for photography enthusiasts to contribute their shots; for designers and artists to share their works. It’s simple, intuitive and passionate.

We don’t need a grand app to put everything in, we just need a lightweight app that helps us to release our passion and creativity, possible build up meaningful connections from there too.

I do not mind paying a few bucks for such clean experience, at least I can gain back the control of my time, not forcing myself wasting them on meaningless promoted content. I think it’s fair enough to exchange the cost of a meal for quality time. There’s nothing comes for free in this economy, when it’s appropriate to pay for something - and such action can greatly enhance digital wellbeing and quality of life - by all means we should go for it, unless we want to be consumed by big companies and become their free products.

Written by Human, Not by AI© Steve 4202. All rights reserved.