12 things I learnt taking 12 months off the ‘gram.

Reproduced from an original article published on Medium, Dec 30th, 2020.

12 months ago I posted my last in-feed photo on Instagram.

It was, like so many others around that time, a ‘Top Nine’; the nine MOST-LIKED photos from my feed throughout that year.

Image for post
Instagram, #TopNine2019 — @whatleydude

8/9 family. 1/9 work. That’s a good balance, I’d say.

A few days after that I posted – and pinned – an ‘end of year review’ to my stories and then after that… promptly uninstalled the app.

One month or so prior my other half, (pictured top left, 319 likes), shared with me a quote from Matt Haig’s Notes from a Nervous Planet:

“An online profile of your best friend is not your best friend. A status update about a day in the park is not a day in the park. And the desire to tell the world about how happy you are, is not how happy you are”

It stuck with me.

And so at the end of 2019, I thought I’d take the damn thing off my phone and just see. Could I do a year without Instagram?

Spoiler: I did. And you can too.

So here, as promised, are:

12 THINGS I LEARNT TAKING 12 MONTHS OFF THE GRAM

THING 1.

I didn’t miss it that much.

This is interesting to me. I thought I would. Like I really would. I thought removing the app from my phone would be one of those things that I’d try for a bit and then eventually crumble again for, I don’t know, work reasons or something. Truth be told, I did have to visit the platform a couple of times to preview some builds for work but nothing further than that — and virtually all of that through the web interface.

Point being: it was easy.

Much easier than I thought it’d be.

THING 2.

Seriously, I didn’t miss it at all.

I remember when I first signed up for Instagram (August 2011 — a photo of a Green Goblin action figure, 5 likes), I think I was convincing myself that it was a great place for photographic creative expression.

And I guess for a while I think it was. But then you find yourself in the early hours, trapped in the endless scrolling of the never-ending feed, either looking at what other people are doing, or seeing if that latest exquisite framing of a great sandwich has got… just… one… more… like… than the last one, or just checking your activity page to see if you have any new followers.

This is not healthy.

And for why?

In Cal Newport’s excellent book, Deep Work, he asks the question (admittedly of a journalist’s Twitter usage):

“Why are [they] urged to regularly interrupt their deep work to provide, for free, shallow content to a service run by an unrelated media company based out of silicon valley?”

It’s an adjacent point but one I am drawn to from time to time. You see what I mean? Why are you doing this? Why is anyone doing this?

I enjoy the creative expression. But if I’m pouring it into Instagram then where isn’t it going instead?

THING 3.

You don’t actually MISS much.

For transparency, I re-downloaded the app earlier today (I’d forgotten the password — of course) to see exactly what I had missed.

Turns out I had nine unread notifications. Of those notifications, three were posts that people had shared with me directly, one actual Direct Message (we’ll come back to this) and five â€˜X has mentioned you in their story’ â€” an entirely useless notification anything later than 24hrs after it happened.

Why? Because I click on them and I literally see… this:

Image for post
Useful Content™

Like. What?

So while I may have missed the occasional engagement announcement from that person I once met at an after-meeting drinks thing, or a Stories Mention (what even do those two words together mean) from someone that I’m hanging out with telling me that they’re hanging out with me… I think I’ve done alright here? Yes my life doesn’t revolve around instagram and it turns out when you remove it from your life, life goes on!

Both on Instagram and off.

And if people want you — you specifically — to know stuff, they’ll tell you.

THING 4.

The platform kinda sucks now?

I installed the app this afternoon to take a proper look at what I had missed. The new dark mode looks L U S H on my phone’s OLED screen, that’s nice. But the muscle memory instantly went click on the ‘Activity’ on the bottom nav and, oh look, Facebook has switched it with ‘Shop’.

Image for post
Hmm. Crispy blacks.

I understand that this is a dark pattern of some kind and I also understand I am VERY LATE to this party. But still. It sucks! And no matter how Facebook paints the decision, it is clear to everyone why it was done and what the ambition was. It’s all just so transparent.

Speaking of things that suck.

THING 5

My God the ads get worse.

You saw that one above right? So far today in feed-ads I’ve seen: crap for extendable desks, crap for bikes, crap for… WhatsApp? And just more crap. It’s a photography platform. Create ads that look like gorgeous photography maybe? Can it be that hard? Apparently: yes.

Actually, no. It’s not about making things hard it’s about what Facebook makes easy. Facebook makes it easy to run the same ad across all of Facebook’s platforms with just one click. So why bother making something platform-specific when platform-agnostic (and screw the user experience!) is so much quicker?

And don’t even get me started on Stories.

Image for post

I used to run a Tumblr aaaaages ago, called ‘Instagram ads are awful’ — I don’t think much has changed. I’m sure there are some great ones but aye carumba they are drowned out by the dross.

Dross that appears after every fourth post.

I know this is veering into old man shouts at cloud territory but I work in this stuff and man alive I wish people would just. stop. with. the. bad.

THING 6

None of it matters.

This too shall pass. And people will remember you for the things you did, not the photos you posted or that amazing Stories compilation you nailed.

THING 7

It changes the way you look at social apps.

For background, I think I took Facebook off my phone shortly after the ‘Sorry, didn’t we mention we use your 2FA for targeting advertising?’ debacle (but then again it might’ve been sooner. Given how much I’ve written about how they simply cannot be trusted, like, with anything). So when’s that? 2018?

Possibly even earlier.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use the platform; exclusively on web and almost exclusively for groups (work, gaming, and smart people — w_w). Those conversations are valuable, yes, but the app actually being on my phone is too high a cost for that, thanks.

For Twitter, I have an on/off love affair with how I have it installed or not. And that changes from time to time. I’m relatively self-aware of how much time I spend on these things so if I catch myself spending too much time on it, I’ll take it off.

If idiocy levels get too high, if strat-gash gets too much, or if a firetruck load of muppetry gets delivered to my feed… then Twitter gets uninstalled.

Twitter is not currently installed on my phone.

TikTok was on for a short while but OH MY GOD WHAT A TIME SUCK so I had to that off as well. My children (combined TopNine score: 435 likes) need my time, not TikTok. I get it, I understand it, I read about it — I just don’t need it in my life right now.

So my point is, until earlier today when I installed Instagram back on my phone, I didn’t have any social apps installed at all.

And I didn’t realise how good that felt until I did.

By moving all social apps to web-only experiences, you’re removing some data-syphons, some terrible features (looking at you, Fleets), huge memory sponges on your device, and — perhaps most importantly of all, no notifications whatsoever. You decide when to look (or not).

No one else. Just you.

Freeing. Utterly freeing. I simply cannot recommend it enough.

And I think that’s what I might aim to do for 2021: try and spend the year with no social apps installed at all (almost impossible, given my job — but still, a healthy ambition nonetheless).

THING 8

Life is better without it.

Tim Urban, the amazing author of the Wait But Why website has written about this at length. This image (one of many) encapsulates a lot about why people feel the way they feel. Look.

Image for post

You can read the whole article right here.

And you should.

Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy”. My own version of that is simply ‘Never measure yourself with someone else’s yardstick’. Either way, by removing the platform from your life, you stop being Lucy and you can start being you again.

THING 9

Practical one this: If you’re going to leave a platform, and really mean it — then you should definitely tell people.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand those people that flounce off platforms at the drop of a hat (only to return <12hrs later). And there’s that tired old trope of ‘If you leave a platform and tell anybody about it, have you even left?’ BUT BUT BUT… hear me out!

I had to send a handful of messages this afternoon each saying ‘Hey, I’ve only just seen this! Sorry!’ and actually mean it â€” which is as hilarious as it is ridiculous:

‘Hi friend, this DM you sent me in July, what was the context? Can I help at all now… six months later?’ (this is a real thing that happened).

I guess if my last post on Instagram had said ‘Hi, I’m taking 2020 OFF this platform — if you need, send me a WhatsApp, thanks!’ then maybe that would’ve been helpful? Shame you can’t set an auto-responder or an out of office for these things.

I think I’m going to add one more post to my gram, in the short term — saying just that. Yes, that might be useful.

Point is: if you’re leaving, tell people.

Even if it is subject to tiresome mocking.

THING 10

2020 was a stellar year to not be doing the gram.

In these uNpReCeDeNtEd TiMeS, going on Insta and talking about how great your life is and how well you’re doing is… kinda gross?

Amanda Hess wrote in March about how ‘Celebrity Culture is Burning’, highlighting just how brilliant/disgusting it was to see/read/hear about what the ‘slebs were doing to help people STAY SAFE.

“Staying home is my superpower,” the “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot reported from her walk-in closet. Ryan Reynolds urged his fans to “work together to flatten the curve” from within his rustic loft…

…Ellen DeGeneres is going “stir-crazy” from having to stay inside her enormous home; Katy Perry has lost track of the days she’s spent inside her enormous home…

Madonna, performing for the public and holding fans in her thrall is yet “another luxury gone, for now,” she says in one video. In its place is the disturbing sensation of normalcy. “The audience in my house is not amused by me,” she says. Later, from the bath, she concludes that Covid-19 is “the great equalizer.”

Sublime. Incredible. And distasteful AF.

The lack of self-awareness is sublime.

THING 11

You should probably print more photos.

When I were a lad, you’d take photos on your camera and then take the film to Boots to get developed and then a few days later (or an hour if you paid extra) you’d get your pack of photos back, pick out the best ones for your wall/album, then chuck the rest (either in the bin or in the drawer with all the others).

Not being on Instagram didn’t stop me from taking photos (or sharing them, tbh — I’m still quite active on Twitter) but what it did do was make me start cherry picking what photos I have on our digital displays at home. And also think about how we might start bringing real-world photos back into the house somehow. We’ve already started — calendars have been made and there’s a cork board in the kitchen — but by not being on t’gram, I think I’ve come to appreciate photoGRAPHS more.

These things are important.

THING 12

Your mileage may vary.

I don’t know what I’ve truly missed out on because… well… I’ve missed it. But given the year we have had (yes, I said it again) I’ve probably spent more time figuring out what’s most important to me over above that of ‘things I might be missing on social media’. Yes, I am painfully aware that that point of view comes from an enormous position of privilege: I am a white man. I have a young family. We have our health. We have our jobs. We have each other.

And while we have struggled with mental health this year (all of us have)…

We are not struggling with the disease.

We are not struggling to make ends meet.

We are not struggling with loneliness.

For some, Instagram might be a window into the lives of friends that they’ve been missing all year round. For others, Stories might be the replacement for the person to person connection that they’ve each craved during isolation. My point is: the platform is what YOU make it.

And that is both its core benefit and ultimately, for me at least, the source of its downfall.

Scientifically proven to be bad for your mental health, Instagram is not something I want or need in my life. I thought I’d try removing it — for a year — and it worked out OK.

More than OK, in fact. I didn’t miss it.

And I doubt very much that it missed me.

One more post this year and then I’m out for good.

Your mileage may vary.

Five things on Friday #140

Things of note for Friday September 4th, 2015.

Bumper #IFA15 edition!

Things of note for Friday September 4th, 2015.

FTOF

Bumper IFA edition! Live (ish) from Berlin!

1. IFA 2015
This item gets quite geeky quite quickly. If it’s not your thing, feel free to skip to the next item, I won’t be offended.

IFA FA FA FA FA!

The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin is an annual tech conference that tends to carry a good couple of announcements and is potentially on its way towards perhaps over-shadowing Mobile World Congress as the big mobile-tech conference of the yearly calendar. Maybe.

And as this edition of FToF goes to press, and with a huge thanks to Lenovo UK, I will be on a flight back in a car on my way home from aforementioned gathering after having spent a healthy couple of days in the presence of predominantly brand new and super-exciting technology.

Hurrah and hurrah again.

The majority of the news from this trip will be covered in episode 139 of mobile tech podcast, The Voicemail (recording this Sunday – subscribe via iTunes), however there’s no reason why I can’t give you lovely lot a very quick run down of what was cool / awesome about my three day jaunt to IFA Berlin.

Shall we?

Cool / awesome IFA thing ONE:
From Lenovo, the new Yoga Tab 3 Pro and the new Moto 360 smartwatch were the highlights for me.

 


The former because, in the main, it feels like the Yoga Tab Pro models have finally come of age. This new one sporting a less-cumbersome 70″ projector (yeah, I know), a sleek new colour, and a fancy leather back. Launching imminently for around $499 US. I’ve got a silver Yoga Tab Pro 2 at home and it gets used regularly. While the much neglected tablet-version of Android can be frustrating at times, the hardware is par excellence. Good to see that aspect following through in this new version.

For the latter, the 2nd gen Moto 360, the thinking is fairly similar as in, never being really one to jump onto 1st gen products, the next gen of this smartwatch is much nicer.

With a thinner/smaller edition ‘for women’ as well a new selection of rose gold straps also aimed at said market; a wider selection and a maturity in its approach to its audiences has resulted in what can only be a step forward for this still quite nascent tech category.

Other awesome things from my hosts at IFA also included a Moto 360 concept smartwatch with a 3D Google street view hologram built into the watch strap (unbelievable) and this Lenovo smartphone with a built-in pico projector.

Very swish.

Very fancy.

Side note: If you’re reading this in the newsletter, do the embedded tweets work or are you seeing crap bits of code/images? Answers to the usual address (hint: just hit reply), thank you.

Cool / awesome IFA thing TWO:
From Sony, the new Xperia Z5 Premium is VERY fancy high-end device (with a high-end price to match). I’m rocking a Sony Xperia Z3 at the moment and, aside from a current hardware fault where an awful amount of dust has got underneath the lens (A common problem – GRR! – but Vodafone are replacing it under warranty, which is nice) it is a fantastic phone – see this example of the best photo I’ve ever snapped with a phone ever – from SXSW earlier this year. I digress.

The Z5 comes in three models, the Z5 Premium, the Z5, and the Z5 Compact. In reverse order, the Z5 compact will probably be quite popular as the Z-range compact models have often been in the past as Sony refuse to tow the line of creating ‘Mini’ models (reducing features and spec with size) and instead keeping the high-end elements and merely reducing the phone’s body. Very impressive.

The Z5 is very nice and – for Sony fans at least -will probably be many folk’s next phone when it launches this November. It’s smart, pretty, and feels fantastic in the hand. I liked this a lot.

Then we get to the Z5 Premium. Slightly larger and the absolute top top top spec, it comes with a 4K screen (which many are calling out as utterly superfluous; who needs that many pixels on a 5.5 screen) and a stunning build that, on the chrome edition at least, is reflective on the back.

XperiaZ5

— Hilariously, Sony’s global PR just RT’d this and now it’s going nuts —

It may look cheap in the image but when you see it in the flesh, it really does POP and it definitely makes you go ‘Wow!’. Worth a look when it launches, definitely.

Sony (and Motorola for that matter) could be about to go through somewhat of a renaissance. With Samsung/Apple fatigue setting in combined with a compelling range of devices marketed to different hands and handbags, 2015/16 could be when mass-market consumers finally catch on to what they’ve been missing out on.

Side note: almost every Android phone I saw in attendance was a Sony Z3. It was everywhere. Alright I own one but I really do think that, if you know your tech and you prefer Android, Sony really is the best in show right now. And from my anecdotal data points of ‘I counted quite a few’, IFA attendees clearly agree with me.

Cool / awesome IFA thing THREE:
Last one, promise.

Finally, also from Sony, yours truly managed to have a sneaky go on the upcoming PlayStation 4 VR peripheral, ‘Project Morpheus‘.

About which I am very excited.

LOOK AT ME WEARING IT, LOOK!

JW on Project Morpheus at IFA

AND IT WAS AWESOME.

SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO GOOD!

And, depending on how abhorrent the pricing is (or isn’t), I may well be first in line when this bad boy launches in Europe at some point next year.

Here’s a video outlining the experience that I had (from a different event, but the demo is the same).

And here’s another video of me this time actually playing said demo – yes, I look like a wally but I was having so much fun (thanks for the footage, Nick x).

Google Cardboard withstanding, this was my first go on any real kind of consumer-facing modern take at VR so I didn’t really know what to expect. There’s still some work to be done (collision detection etc) but the best description I can give you is that I came out of it with the kind of exhilarated grin that is only really reserved for when I get to the end of a rollercoaster – such was my enjoyment.

And you can’t get a better seal of approval than that.

So yeah, that was a cool trip. Once more, thanks to Lenovo for flying me over, putting me up, and generally keeping me fed and watered throughout. I had a great time.

Again, as mentioned, expect more in-depth coverage in the next episode of The Voicemail.

Right then, that’s IFA done. Shall we continue with FToF?

Let’s.

2. BATMAN ANIME FOR THE WIN
Christ, are we only at item 2?!

Wowsers.

Anyway…

There’s a website that I read from time to time that specifically covers redesigns and re-imaginations of comic book heroes and villains called Project Rooftop. If you fancy seeing some wicked art, I can suggest heading over right away and taking a look.

This next bit is not from that but it reminded me of it.

Live for Films recently published this concept of an anime Batman a couple of weeks back that I liked so much I didn’t want to just shove into last week’s bonus section so, here it is in all its glory.

cliff-chiang-batman

There’s much more at the link (including a brief explanation of the approach as well as a fairly awesome mecha-Superman), so go check it out.

3. ONE MINUTE TIME MACHINE
This popped up on my feeds this morning and I think it’s my favourite item this week. A five minute short film called, you guessed it…

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 15.23.09

And it is wonderful.

It’s slightly NSFW in its use of language at one point but it really is laugh out loud funny and if, like me, you love a good sci-fi ish yarn, you’ll enjoy this quirky little number.

4. TODAY DO THIS
This is your Twitter follower recommendation of the week: @TodayDoThis is my kind of Twitter account. I shall let the ‘founder’ (haha) describe what it’s for:

‘TodayDoThis (@todaydothis) is a daily nudge towards making today slightly better than yesterday. Each morning – 8am UK, NYC and Sydney time – a simple suggestion is posted. Something you can easily do that day should you so wish. Something that might make your day better, or someone else’s (and often both). There’s no specific subject matter, there’s no agenda. Just things to do that might make today a good day. Because if you can do one thing today to make it a bit better than yesterday, then maybe you’ll be open to doing more tomorrow…’

Little moments of inspiring betterment, delivered right into your Twitter stream.

How lovely.

Off you pop then, go give’em a follow.


5. CHARLES ARTHUR’S OVERSPILL
As a writer of collated content, I tend to dig it when I find other collators who also do the same. Both from a MOAR CONTENT perspective as well as a ‘Ooo, I wonder how they do it’ angle.

One that I’ve recently been growing fond of is that of master collator (and ex-tech editor at The Guardian) Mr Charles Arthur.

His latest ‘Overspill‘ is quite excellent and there is much there I could link to (from great Google car encounters to the very latest Ashley Madison discoveries) but instead I shall just link you to the article in its entirety and you can go digging yourself.

Y’know, just in case you haven’t had enough STUFF this week.

😉

______________________________

Bonuses this week are as follows.

  • Please vote for my SXSW Panel. Please. Today (Friday) is the last day for voting.
  • I may’ve mentioned this in an earlier edition but Social Media Week London is just around the corner and the collection of COMPLETELY FREE events that Ogilvy is putting on each morning really is quite superb. Each talk/panel/presentation takes place between 9am and 10am which means that, if you can’t get out of the office for the whole week, you could probably come along to ours and then just tell your boss the bus was late. Winner.
  • There are 200-year-old tunnels under the streets of Liverpool and no one knows why.
  • Eight questions you’re afraid to ask Tattoo Artists [video].
  • This past weekend my dear friends Mark & Isolde made their wedding vows and I wanted to announce their nuptials like this is some kind of newspaper announcement. So consider this that. It was wonderful, and I wish them much love and laughter for their future together. 

______________

Testimonial time!

‘The best thing about about FToF is that I usually know one of the five, or sometimes none. Never more. HTF do you do that?!’
– Pedro Stephano

‘I anticipate and appreciate every issue of Five Things on Friday. Getting this in my mailbox makes my Friday even more Fridayer.’
– Jim Gibson

‘Five Things is a dishy selection of culture, tech, social and news organically curated – always something that surprises –  an enjoyable pre-weekend read!’
– Susi O’Neill

____

And that’s it from me.

See you all next week?

yes

Whatley Out.

______________

PS. If you’ve enjoyed this, please refer it to another; a tweet will do.

PPS. Instagram ads are awful.

Five things on Friday #74

Things of note for the week ending May 30th, 2014.

1. ‘Super Important Tweet’
I first found out about this web app via the always interesting Web Curios newsletter. Basically, the premise is that you can add ‘importance’ to a tweet by creating a text-based-image that you can embed in your tweet which subsequently hammers home the importance of what it is you’re trying to say.

However, what it actually does is allow you to create a perfectly sized image for Twitter. That’s right brands, a simple web app now does that thing you all seem incapable of doing.

Amazing, right?

Try it.

2. Ocean Piglets, Shield Toads, and Naked Snails
Aka, how to name animals in German. I used to study German at school and while I’m not a big one for publishing infographics on this here blog of mine, there’s no harm in linking to one.

Seriously, this is brilliant.

3. Beautiful Brands on Instagram

Beautiful Instagram Brands

The value of branded activity on Instagram is still very much a point of argument amongst the marketing folk of today. Does it drive any meaningful value? Can you actually measure anything? Why are we bothering? – are all questions that float around when this comes up for discussion, and you really have to know your onions to formulate a decent response.

If you don’t know your onions and want to know more about how Instagram can ‘work’ for brands, the blog of those folk at Nitrogram is a good place to start. There’s a ton of stuff to read up on and, if you’re looking for inspiration, they’re latest post isn’t a bad read at all.

4. Faking Cultural Literacy

It’s not lying, exactly, when we nod knowingly at a cocktail party or over drinks when a colleague mentions a movie or book that we have not actually seen or read, nor even read a review of. There is a very good chance that our conversational partner may herself be simply repeating the mordant observations of someone in her timeline or feed. The entire in-person exchange is built from a few factoids netted in the course of a day’s scanning of iPhone apps. Who wants to be the Luddite who slows everything down by admitting he has never actually read a Malcolm Gladwell book and maybe doesn’t exactly understand what is meant by the term “Gladwellian” — though he occasionally uses it himself?

This, from the New York Times, is remarkably spot on.

Go read it.

Properly.

Without skimming.

The final paragraph is a knock-out.

5. Gorgeous Art, at High Speed

From this:

High speed art before

To this:

High Speed Art

Cool, right?

Made to been seen at high speeds, these colorful patterns form a sequential whole for commuters whizzing by at top speed. Dubbed ‘Psycholustro’, the artist (Katharina Grosse) created the work as a way to ‘engage everyday travelers with a project that addresses their in-motion perspective and the passage of time’ (more at the source).

I think it’s awesome and, bizarrely enough, similar to an idea I had for the Channel Tunnel when I was nine years old.

It’s OK, I’m pretty sure she didn’t copy me.

 

 

Five things on Friday #65

Things of note for the week ending March 28th, 2014.

Kuratas

1. Kuratas is coming to get you
This is nuts.

Above photo via The Verge.

2. 8 bit Fight Club
Remarkably well done.

3. The Seven Best Games for Non-Gamers
I’m a gamer. I make no secret of that. From original Super Mario Bros on my NES, to games on my phone to my PlayStation 4, I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. But not everyone else has. So, in fear of being told they’re ‘like a dog at the controls of a helicopter‘ what can those people play? Well, fortunately enough, Kotaku has put such a list together. Worth reading.

4. The second best Lorde cover EVER  [CLOWN KLAXON]
Last month I showed off a video of Puddles the Clown covering the Lorde hit ‘Royals’. And it was spectacular. Well, he’s back. This time covering ‘Team’ and it too is bloody fantastic.

5. The Instagram Bazaar
While we’re on a ‘Five things rewind!’ trip, back in Five things #56, I mentioned a nifty little trend in Middle Eastern e-commerce in the shape of using Instagram to sell sheep. Well, it would seem that this trend has gone global. Not the sheep-selling aspect, but the small-business-using-Instagram-as-a-shop-window element is taking off stateside, as this article from the New York Times reports –

Beverly Hames, owner of the shop [Fox & Fawn], said she began posting items on Instagram as an experiment a year and a half ago. Now, sales deriving from those postings make up 20 to 40 percent of the store’s daily revenue, she said, and they come from all over the country and occasionally from overseas.

Markets in everything indeed. When all the talk is about how the lack of paid budget will slowly push the little guy out, there are small businesses all across the world cutting corners and capitalising on any and every opportunity possible.

Fair play to them.

 

 

Ads on Instagram are already here. But are they legal?

Place your bets now please…

The facts:

  • The Facebook-owned photo-sharing site, Instagram, does not have a business model (yet).
  • ‘Official’ ads will be coming soon (if on hold), but celebrities (and their sponsors) aren’t waiting around.
  • The US Federal Trade Commission state that ads on social media must be labelled as such*.

With those key points in tow, let’s take a look at a few recent examples of how ads have begun to appear on the this particular social network –

EXAMPLE 1:  Lebron James, Nike

Copy: ‘These are simply the best!! Ultra comfy and can wear them with anything. I’m ordering 100 pair right now. #kicks #Nike #family’

Is this an ad? It could be deemed as such, certainly. Is Lebron James sponsored by Nike? Definitely. Is ‘endorsement of product across social media’ part of his contract? Maybe. This is something I’ve talked about before. In short: how do social media advertising rules work when it comes to sponsorship deals? Should this image have an #ad tag?

Let me know in the comments.

EXAMPLE 2. Kim Kardashian, Sun Kissed

Copy: ‘Sprayed tonight after watching KKTM! My legs are soooo dark! Loving Kardashian SunKissed! #AvailableAtUlta’

If this isn’t an ad, then I really don’t know what is. Let’s review –

  1. We’ve got a CLEAR product shot!
  2. We’ve got a a massive ENDORSEMENT (Kim’s ‘LOVING’ it guys).
  3. Finally, that final hashtag? Oh, hi there call to action. How you doin’?

All of these elements add up to a clear piece of advertising. Is it marked up as such? No. While you could argue that KK is endorsing her own products here (so no money has officially changed hands, and this is technically not actually ‘paid for’ advertising) and therefore she’s exempt from the advertising guidelines… but still, it’s a grey area at best.

EXAMPLE 3: Nicole Richie, Suave
(image via Ad Age)

Copy: ‘Ad: My new don’t-leave-home-without-it product? Moroccan Infusion Styling Oil from @SuaveBeauty! Check out ways to add brilliant shine to your style here: bit.ly/XDJOkp’

OK, so this works. Finally someone is using the ‘Ad’ tag properly when it comes to advertising via earned media – hurrah! The interesting point here is that the brand in question has gone on record and said that the above image was indeed part of the existing partnership between the company and Ms Richie. Again, making things even clearer. Perfect.

——  So what can we learn from this?

There are three things at play here –

1. Without a business model, Instagram, and therefore Facebook, is clearly missing out on potentially lucrative ad dollars being bought and sold on their network.

2. Celebrities, and their sponsors, are getting smarter, faster.

3. In the same way that the ASA took Snickers and Nike to tribunal here in the UK, I wouldn’t be surprised if the FTC went knocking on the doors of a few US-based brands in the very near future.

It sounds so obvious when you say it out loud but, when it comes to paid-for endorsements on social media, clarity and transparency are key.

 

*Here in the UK, the ASA have a similar policy but the terms regarding disclosures are not as explicit.

Short stories on Instagram

I’ve been writing short stories on Instagram.

I’m not really sure why, but it’s just something that has started happening recently, since my last haircut in fact (which is an odd way for things to start but still). I remember the hairdresser handing me a copy of the latest GQ magazine and thinking ‘Ugh, I haven’t read this since I was a teenager’.

But then I opened it and started browsing – ‘I’ve got nothing else to do for the next 40mins, why not?’ – and I found an amazing and quite lengthy article about Philip K. Dick. Prolific science fiction author, futurist and drug user (I would be amazed if you’d never heard of him or of any of the films that are based on his works), I’d never read anything about him, the man, before and it was just completely mindstretching.

I really can’t remember the full ins and outs of the actual piece (quotes etc) and you’re a better man than I if you can find anything relating to the piece on the GQ website but what I do remember is the way they described Dick’s imagination and the way he viewed the world in which we live.

It really did blow my mind.

The guy was a mental case, a drug-[ab]using* genius and yet, his imagination was – and still is – ridiculously inspiring. That article, on top of this additional piece from Warren Ellis, entitled ‘How To See The Future‘, is pushing my brain in new directions and it is awesome.

On the way home that afternoon, I was on the look out for a decent Empty Underground shot or three and I spotted this:

Inspired, on Instagram

‘That’s cool’, I thought ‘reminds me of the use of amber, from [the TV series] Fringe‘. Then I boarded my tube and started typing. I don’t know what the character limit is on Instagram images, I’m yet to find it. But what I am finding is that being able to go over and above 140 characters is somewhat freeing.

My imagination takes me to all kinds of places…

I wrote:

—————-

Emergency tube closure.
Large rats, the size of cattle, have been reported roaming the tunnels at Oxford Circus. These orange panels, an emergency procedure in place since 1997, are actually made up of a thick orange sinew. Frequently mistaken as a deterrent to the unbelievably large rodents, the panels – also known as ‘honey squares’ – are actually covered on one side with a sickly sweet, yet dangerously poisonous, honey-like coating. This honey trap, if you will, lures the wildrats out of their dark dens and snares them with their hypnotic flavour.

Death occurs merely minutes after first contact. All that remains is for a clean up team to dispose of the captured carcass and reopen the station to the public. The whole process takes approximately one hour.

Quite remarkable really.

—————-

I’ve been writing short stories on Instagram. I’m not really sure why, but what I can tell you is that they’re inspired by Philip K Dick and Warren Ellis.

More short stories —

The Witness

Another World

Sentient Life

Emergency Tube Closure

 

Emergency tube closure. Large rats, the size of cattle, have been reported roaming the tunnels at Oxford Circus. These orange panels, an emergency procedure in place since 1997, are actually made up of a thick orange sinew. Frequently mistaken as a deterrent to the unbelievably large rodents, the panels – also known as ‘honey squares’ – are actually covered on one side with a sickly sweet, yet dangerously poisonous, honey-like coating. This honey *trap*, if you will, lures the wildrats out of their dark dens and snares them with their hypnotic flavour. Death occurs merely minutes after first contact. All that remains is for a clean up team to dispose of the captured carcass and reopen the station to the public. The whole process takes approximately one hour. Quite remarkable really.

A photo posted by James Whatley (@whatleydude) on

A bit similar to my N8 project from last year, this time it’s with Instagram.

*user or abuser? The word is undecided. He took the drugs to push himself, and his work, into new dimensions. Surely, for him at least, that’s not abuse; that’s using them exactly what they’re for.