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Is Instagram Dead in 2024? A Return to the Traditional

by Laura Eccleston

08 Feb 2024


Is Instagram Dead in 2024? A Return to the Traditional
When it comes to social media I think we've all asked that question, when is enough enough? Is it time to say goodbye to social media for good? Is it actually useful anymore? Has the time for returning to traditional methods come? Here is my perspective as a designer with a marketing background..

Utilising free social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram were a given back the day. Why wouldn't you? but at first I only used Facebook. I was slow to adopt Instagram as it was only available as an app and back then I didn't own a smart phone. This was circa 2011 and I was still using websites as a main function for access.

I started my YouTube channel using an old digital camera that didn't even have HD back then. I laugh about it now, but everything was so much fun! Things were exciting back then. Our Facebook community grew to over 70,000+ people and we would talk endlessly about crochet projects, tutorials I was making, and I would even add crochet patterns to the actual Facebook page that people could enjoy directly on Facebook. YouTube also took off and I made the decision to invest in an HD camera at last, but I still hadn't made that leap to buying a smart phone and installing Instagram. I didn't see the point. We'll come back to that.

That decision came a few years later when I was forced to create an Instagram page, and this was the first time a little darkness began to show in social media for me because the only reason I had to join Instagram was to secure the HappyBerry name, but I didn't mind. I felt it was time. Facebook was fun so I assumed Instagram would be too. I bought a smart phone at last and set up a bright and sparkly Instagram page and I indeed had fun with it. I'll always remember my first photo share of me staring up at some crochet booties I'd made whilst holding some PDF print outs of my crochet patterns. The lighting was terrible, but I had arrived and people were excited. 

Instagram in the early days was a lovely place to explore. Beautifully curated channels full of wondrous photos. Okay yes, many were fake representations of life - who keeps a coffee cup that close to their yarn? - but it didn't matter. Everything looked nice and people weren't competitive or influencing you about anything. I felt inspired and creative. I was not able to produce such photogenic imagery like others were - the UK sunlight is just not set up for that - but that was fine. It was all about the community for me. I would follow others and see their posts in my feed in time order, they would see my posts and comment exciting and fun things back to me. My Instagram community grew to over 40,000+ people and that was a good job because soon Facebook was changing.

The app version of Facebook, even to this day is terrible so I was still logging in via their website, but things were changing and not changing for the good. Suddenly pages I followed were disappearing from my feed and they weren't in time order, which was very confusing if someone was posting about Christmas or a competition they were hosting. Nothing made sense, everything was out of date, and more and more adverts were appearing alongside "we recommend this channel for you" and it would be something completely irrelevant to me and to be honest a bit sexist. This was before the days of them coming clean about how much data they collected on you and then sold on to other companies. Thankfully I always give fake information on the internet if I can, but this back fired because they were assuming I was much older than I was and the advertising was catering for that. Nothing made sense.

Then things got worse. The Facebook community we had built together was no longer functioning as it had before. I did try opening a group, but quickly it was inundated with spam. I was spending hours cleaning that up that I just had to archive it in the end. I don't want to be one of those people who complain about lack of reach these days, but this was indeed happening. With over 70,000 people following on the HappyBerry Facebook page, anything I posted was now gaining only a few likes and even less comments. I couldn't understand what had changed. I was really sad, but worse people were commenting "I thought you had gone?!" because they never saw my posts. I quickly realised that Facebook wanted me to pay for new followers, but then pay again to 'advertise' to them. It all became about money and I think this led to the beast that became known as the 'influencer'. I was beginning to lose my community.

Facebook had never generated much traffic to my own website anyway or to my YouTube channel, but it wasn't about that. I enjoyed it for the community and the connections I had gained, but social media has begun it's new journey from being a social platform where you could connect with people on a personal level, friends and family and those interested in the same hobbies as you to a place about money and business, with content creators forcing cr*p down your throat with zero interest in connecting with you on a personal level. I hated it and I refused to buy into this new system.

I deleted Facebook.

I took a huge leap of faith and deleted our Facebook page with over 70,000+ followers to boot, but I knew that doing so would have zero affect on HappyBerry. It still felt awful, not because I cared about the numbers, I cared about the people, but I had no way of contacting all these people to say where I was going. It just had to be done. There was no point to it anymore. No-one was interacting with our posts let alone clicking through to our website, which by the way has been the consistently most successful aspect to HappyBerry and I can't recommend enough building your own website or blog from day 1 of whatever you do. The ROI (return on investment) was terrible so if I was losing my community, was was the point of it all? I was spending hours and hours curating posts, uploading content and deleting spam and I would get this sick nervous feeling in my stomach every time I logged on. It had to go. Did it impact HappyBerry in any way? That's the crazy thing. It didn't at all. My website traffic continued to grow as did the YouTube channel. 

I have to add a little contingency to this drastic action of mine though because I did have to re-start a Facebook page because someone took it upon themselves to create their own HappyBerry Facebook page and pretend to be us, but I don't use it or log in to Facebook or have the app working on my phone. I refuse to have anything to do with it. Misi posts now and then, but it's very much a satellite platform for us. Messages and comments are not monitored and I have no idea how many followers it has.

So over to Instagram we headed. Of course the YouTube channel was growing and our own website was still growing independently from social media, but for a long while I was still enjoying Instagram. It felt less toxic than Facebook and the community was thriving, but I knew deep down that eventually it would go the same way as Facebook because it was run by the same person and I was sadly right. In fact, I think it took a worse turn that even Facebook did.

Slowly over time, things began to change. Posts in my feed suddenly were not in time order. A classic example recently was a post I saw of someone preparing for Christmas in October.. and I saw this in January. The people I was following slowly vanished from my feed and was instead replaced by recommended channels that were not relevant and endless adverts. The influencers gained notoriety, shopping was prioritised and then reels happened.

I was so so so sad when this happened. I had never had an interest in TikTok. I did start a TikTok channel because so many people around me personally raved about it, but the channel was so slow to grow that I grew bored quickly with no-one to talk to. People didn't seem to do that anymore? I also hated creating short videos. I was a long video person. Whether to create or to watch. I liked to explain and talk and connect. I'm a teacher, not a two second influencer. Everything had become about the now now now. People didn't seem to have time anymore. Doom scrolling became a thing with no attention paid to the creator, no comments left, a like if you were lucky, but likes didn't mean anything either. Who is liking? Who is the person behind the like? Why did they like? Why did they not like? It's like screaming into a void where your content may echo off someone in the distance if you're lucky, who may or may not look your way and ask, "what was that?" 

And Instagram was now copying TikTok for one reason only, jealousy and money. The past memory of beautifully curated photos had died.. photographers cried, vanity and stupidity was embraced. Interestingly most people below the age of 20 don't use Instagram and are even leaving TikTok now. This doesn't surprise me. What Facebook became to us, is what Instagram has become to them. It's old. It's a mess and it's a waste of time. I was beginning to agree. 

With over 40,000+ subscribers on Instagram I began to notice less and less interaction. Like with Facebook, I didn't care about the numbers, it could have been 5,000 or 100,000, what mattered though to me was the engagement rate. This is the same for companies, to marketers and to those like me who just want to connect with people, but each post was only getting a few likes and even less comments. So I was faced with the inevitability of having to create reels. Instagram was all about the reels. Everyone was told to create reels. "Turn your story into a reel!" Instagram would repeat to you over and over again, but you could only make it a minute long. That's a whole 60 seconds to convey something meaningful and interesting. I tried with crochet, but it was just too stressful. It was one thing taking time to take a nice photo, but to curate a whole reel via my phone and condense it down into something short enough to be palatable to those with a short attention span was a nightmare. That said, what I did create, did OK engagement wise, but nothing on the level of the past, and then Instagram decided to change the rules again anyway. I was struggling to keep up and I was designing less and less.

We were back to photos, but carousels of photos this time, but there's only so many photos you can take of the same item. Isn't that just boring? Some channels would type up a whole pattern into images and carousel that, but I didn't want to take anything away from my own website. Content just didn't seem to make sense anymore. I didn't know how to fit in or how to please the algorithm that had no meaningful parameters to understand. Everything was random and a mystery! I was told this was my fault of course. It could never be the platform's fault. "Your content isn't engaging enough!" people would suggest, but my website would seem to disagree.

Social media is time wasting.

ALL this time and energy spent on Instagram was preventing me from working on my own website. More and more posts were being flagged for being against community guidelines. My crochet chickens were being accused of inciting violence and my rose granny square was thought to be something x-rated by their increasingly incompetent AI algorithm. I was beginning to be accused of some quite heinous crimes! All I wanted to do was talk about crochet with like-minded people, yet here I was having to defend myself and dispute claims, trying to understand how my images could be conceived as dirty or criminal, all whilst engagement rate was dying and the channels I was following disappearing. It was all becoming stressful and pointless.

That same anxiety feeling I'd had with Facebook was back, but now with Instagram. I was so sad to feel this way. Anything I posted, commented or liked could lead to a seriously aggressive and intimidating legal accusation from Instagram. My account could be limited or worse deleted altogether by the whim of an AI decision. Years and years of all that effort just gone over night and I had zero control over that. This was not a good business plan or time investment. The ROI was again rubbish and I realised I didn't want to feed this monster anymore. 

Because that what social media is, a monster. Mark Zuckerberg's whole business plan is based on the concept of selling our content. This is content that we curate and create. Thousands and thousands of us. If we didn't exist, his business wouldn't exist so we spend hours and hours making someone else rich and we get nothing in return for our efforts. There's no reward anymore for this time and effort we put in for people like Mark to make money. There's no community, there's no engagement, there is nothing social about social media. It's just a place to watch, to catch a glimpse, to doom scroll and pass the time and be left feeling awful at the end of it because there is no community or engagement. We are more disconnected than ever. On top of that we are threatened by the platform indiscriminately, we are judged, advertised to unwittingly, our data is sold, we are comparing ourselves, the list goes on to a very dark level...

In fact, our Instagram account was deleted last year due to a bug in their system. I awoke one morning to find our whole account had vanished. It was recovered over time, but it showed me how vulnerable the thing was. If I didn't have my own website and had placed everything I'd made on social media, then... phoof! it could be gone over-night and I could do nothing about all that time invested. Don't fall into this trap. Instagram owes you nothing and they'll make that very clear. In fact they own your content as soon as you upload it so you don't even own that!

I'm not the first to talk about this by any means. I'm sure you too reading this will have your own story to tell, but over the last few days I've been thinking hard about the role of social media with regards to HappyBerry, my own mental health and the time I am investing into these apps.

A return to the traditional...

Facebook is deactivated, TikTok was un-installed last year, but accounts still exist because we are forced to have a presence even if we don't use it. Instagram to date is still installed, but we've decided to take a step back. I'd like to focus on more traditional methods of connecting such as writing articles here on the website and sending out newsletters. Call me old fashioned, but maybe this is the future? A return to the traditional methods of marketing and connecting with people in a real way. After-all, businesses and brands existed long before social media did.

Breaking the habit of social media is hard for many. We have almost been brain-washed into producing content for it. Can we not just take a photo and not think of sharing it? Can we film something and not plan in our minds on how it would work as a reel? Do we really need to share everything to be successful? Of course not, but it's hard to believe this. There are however many successful brands, businesses and creative souls out there who avoid social media. I read a lovely article recently by The Darling Academy who also shares the same feelings, and watched an enlightening video by 
The Butterfly & Toadstool who left Instagram to invest in themselves more.

As for me, I've reach a moment when I need to think about these questions deeply. I truly believe my time is better spent on crochet designing. It is the foundation of what I do after-all and if I remove all the time wasted spent on social media, I could produce so much more crochet. If I spent less time thinking about how I can gain more engagement on my social media posts and instead thought about new ideas and new designs, with the support of my own website amazing things could happen. I'm just so sad to lose that community so I still live in hope that things will change and they'll be a huge shift back to the good old days.

For now though I hope you will follow my journey here. You can subscribe to our newsletter here via Your Details or you can upgrade your free account to our monthly subscription and join our lovely HappyBerry+ community. All proceeds go towards supporting HappyBerry's mission.

- Laura 

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