Rainbows & algorithms

At the time of writing, there are 938 followers on my instagram page. I can’t help thinking how cool it would be if that number hit a 1000. A thousand! Woah!

And immediately thereafter, I realize it would only be a very brief moment of ‘accomplishment’. Before soon, I’d be thinking how cool 1100 followers would be, or 1500, or whatever other number marks the the next milestone.

But there’s no pot of gold to be found at any number of followers. There’s not even a rainbow anywhere near ‘engagement’ for that matter. The rainbow is outside, readily available for us to enjoy. And surely, the real gold will be there, in the guise of our presence and attention.

Westduinpark, The Hague, Just before sunset last night. No rainbow in sight here, but absolutely golden nonetheless.

My perspective

Now, I’m writing this as an amateur photographer, sharing my photos as a hobby, an archive of pictures that, mostly, represent happy memories of my walks out in nature. I enjoy sharing them, but in the end they’re for me. I’m not looking to start or grow a business, make money or otherwise benefit from my photography.

So, my perspective might be different than yours. That’s fine, we have different goals and this is not judgement. It’s simply reflection, self-reflection, mostly. But perhaps there‘s others who experience the temptations of the endorphin-fueled trap that social media can be.

“The problem, at least for me, is that it is an increasingly anxiety-inducing road leading nowhere — away from any real value or meaningful connection, which are the things I actually care for.”

As for me, I am no stranger to those temptations. I’ve payed for promoted posts, added the popular hashtags and tagged the well-known showcase account hoping to get featured. I thought about what to post and when, and so on. And it worked, too: in doing all of that I increased my exposure and gained quite some followers. And for those willing, there’s other, sleazier methods too, like mass-following, like-bombing and random commenting all over the place to increase exposure and attract attention.

The problem, at least for me, is that it is an increasingly anxiety-inducing road leading nowhere — away from any real value or meaningful connection, which are the things I actually care for.


I don’t want to please an algorithm. I don’t want to conform to publishing a specific amount of a certain type of ’content’ on time schedule optimized for engagement. Fuck that. All of it — I don’t produce ’content’ and I don’t need or want whatever poisoned fruits the algorithm is offering.

Like I said earlier though, I’m no stranger to any of those temptations. I think it was about a year ago, when I was noticing how anxious social media was making me at times, that I decided I need to either change how I’d use it, or stop using it all together.

Since I also thought — and think — there’s plenty good stuff to enjoy about social media, I decided to go with changing how I’d use it. I stopped using hashtags to attract an audience. I stopped trying to appeal to showcase accounts. I stopped trying to optimize when or how often I’d publish, and so on.

Yellow mignonettes on a bright June morning.No rainbows here either (I realize I should photograph rainbows sometimes), but absolutely golden too!

I decided to instead publish my photos whenever I felt like it, as many or few as I felt like, and tag them only with actual descriptive hashtags, allowing them to be discovered by topic, location or camera brand enthusiasts like myself. Furthermore, I started being more selective with who I follow and even with who follows me: I became increasingly aware of how pleasant it is to be in a bubble of likeminded folks with whom I feel an actual connection and I aim to maintain that carefully.

All of this has helped me to simply enjoy sharing my stuff and enjoying all of the wonderful interestingness that others are sharing. And whenever temptation lures, like when looking at the silly followers number, I remind myself of this, and of the rainbow outside where the real gold is to be found.