Here is the confession of a late adopter and a naive tyro.
After years of resisting Instagram, Twitter and Facebook I was suddenly pressured into cranking up an Instagram account. After all, how can I pose as an expert on all things to do with digital photography if I know nothing about the most-used picture sharing medium in the universe.
With helpful advice from a pal, who knows about these social media things, I eventually got the hang of hashtags and posting from the iPhone and PC (using gramblr.com). In no time at all I had dozens of priceless masterpieces out there for all to see and marvel at. A lady friend’s immediate reaction was :”You’re too old for Instagram” Cheeky! But she has a point — Instagram is where the young and the beautiful post their phone selfies to keep us up to the minute on their exciting lives in exotic places while wearing as few clothes as possible. This happens to be the sort of obsessive behaviour that gives narcissism a bad name. I am too old for that. I’m more Latergram than Instagram.
Following instructions I pressed on regardless and within seconds of putting up a new image I was getting Likes from Vladivostok and Rio and all points in between. Amazing! What a world we live in. Now I have new best friends everywhere.
But then came the looming dark cloud of doubt.
First, the speed of the Like responses seemed improbable. Within seconds of posting I am getting Likes from Memphis Tennessee. Really? At any time of day?
I looked at the sources of the Likes and discovered an interesting thing — almost all of them want to sell me something or want me to Like them in return so that an unstoppable virus of sales messages starts to clog up the Interverse. I detected a distinct lack of sincerity in my new best friends.
I Googled the phenomenon to see if I am being Liked by a machine. And it turns out that is exactly what is happening. There are bots (short for robots – software applications that run automated tasks) that post responses to hashtags that have been designated by the user. So if I use the hashtag #melbourne I am instantly Liked by every restaurant within a day’s journey. One picture, tagged #trams, for some obscure reason is liked by #visionfootwear which, you will have guessed, is a shoe shop. My tram also appeals to #michalck of Poland and #freedbrundler of Bern where they have elegant trams themselves. That’s impressive. But I’m not so chuffed by a Like from #pocketsqareofficial, an online tailor. What’s haberdashery got to do with trams?
And there is no easy explanation for why I am of interest to a manicurist in Tokyo (responding to #gorilla) or a jewellery seller in Sofia. I think they need to fine-tune their bots. I have found that it is best to stick to dogs and cats because there are enough other slaves to their pets to excite modest traffic in genuine, human-generated Likes. If you get a Comment along the lines of “Gorgeous! Beautiful! Post more!” don’t get too excited. Comments can also be automated.
Call me old-fashioned and naive but I was under the impression that the emotional response of liking something was uniquely human. Who would have thought that robots have come so far.
Now I find that I am being Followed — a spooky feeling for a congenital introvert. Instagram does provide the option of a private account which promises to give the power to screen out unwanted followers but there’s no escaping the feeling that in this day and age the concept of privacy is obsolete.
I think that my past suspicion of social media was justified. I am put in mind of Henry David Thoreau’s scepticism about the telegraph. “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate…” He would love the Interweb!
Still, amongst the self-regarding dross and the unwanted sales pitches there are some gems. There are Grammers with themes — have a look at #silhouettegrams — and there are some real photographers who do not appear themselves in any of their pictures. See #meistershots, a German photographer who knows how to use a camera to dazzling effect. I am grateful that he Likes me. At least I hope it is him and not his Bot.
Now if you’ve got some time on your hands and nothing better to do open Instagram and have a look at #dpexpert6.