Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Dislike of Instagram

A photo posted by Peter Rogers (@peterrogersesq) on

I think I’ve been using the Instagram mobile app long enough to articulate some very basic problems with the experience. I’m also currently be nagged to re-up my Flickr Pro account in a time when you have to ask, “Do you need a Flickr Pro account in 2015?” I’m starting to think you do, especially given the following reasons that Instagram is, for me, Instabad.

1. “Likes” do not exist.

Photos you “like” can never ever be found again. Where the hell do my “likes” appear? Nowhere, that’s where. I select the damned “♥︎” icon (which I can only assume means Favourites/Likes in Facebook parlance) and I see images I’ve taken that people who follow me have “♥︎” (liked?) under the heading “You”. Yet under the same heading, I see notifications of when my followers began following me. What the hell is this heading?! For some reason the “♥︎” icon is actually “Activity” in your photo feed and not “Likes” at all? I have not yet met anyone who could explain this to me. Under the heading “Following” I see images people I follow have “♥︎ / liked”, which I suppose is sort of interesting, maybe? But nowhere can I see the images of people I follow, that I “♥︎ / liked”. Just to re-iterate how crazy this is, if I follow Jill, I can see photos she liked, excluding my own photos, Jill can see what photos I liked, excluding her own, but neither of us can see the photos we, ourselves liked of each others photos? This is completely confounding and generally makes the “Like” functionality a useless little “thumbs up” to the original poster. By the way, these “Likes” cannot be filtered or re-ordered and only appear from most recently liked to oldest liked (the language of social media depresses the little grammarian in my head - who, it should be said, is often sound asleep). In Flickr, “Faves” becomes a scrollable album I can peruse at my leisure.

2. No slideshow.

Whether I’m looking at my own posts or someone I follow who is an exceptional photographer, I can see a grid or a list of their posts, but if I tap one, I then have to go back to the grid to see the next image. Why can’t I simply scroll through the posted images like any other slideshow on any other handheld device in every other app ever created. This is beyond an annoyance but is an impediment to using the app. Of course, in Flickr, your own photostream is scrollable horizontally, and photos of people you follow, are scrollable vertically (not sure why they are different, they just are).

3. Post, is ALWAYS selected.

It is perplexing that the large centered Post icon is always highlighted in blue and that other areas of the app have an almost imperceptible grey square when selected. When I am looking at my Home feed, why isn’t it surrounded by a blue square? I’m there but I’m not, because the Post icon is surrounded by a blue square - so that’s selected, no? No. It is not. Selecting it doesn’t change much unless you notice the faint grey square around the previously selected icon being now gone. Did you notice? I didn’t think so.

4. There is no zoom.

You see an amazing photo posted by NatGeo of birds in flight. You’d like to zoom in, using an almost now universal gesture, but no, you cannot enlarge the image, which is frozen to the width of the screen. Too bad for you, just hold the screen closer to your face if you want to see an image larger. Flickr does allow you to select an image, and zoom into see details, by use of the “unpinch” gesture.

5. Mobile first means Mobile Only.

“Mobile First” became a rallying cry for the exasperated Web designer keen on creating responsive Web sites that looked appropriately great on large monitors and small screens alike. Yet, Instagram has no other version to be first or second. There is no tablet version and no desktop version of the application. Sure there’s a Web page, this isn’t the stone age after all. But you can’t upload photos or do much of anything from that Web page. If I do go to the Web site and see an image I’d like to share I have to leave the feed view and go to the photo page of that image. Um - click a mouse much? Why the extra step? This is inexplicably similar to how you used to view images on Facebook but who knows, maybe that’s the point – which it should be said, is a very stupid point. What makes it stupid is you get to the Photo Page by tapping a “More” button, but it isn’t a “More” button at all, it’s a “Go To Photo Page button” because that’s all it does. Can I do anything else from this site, such as post images taken with any device other than a phone? No, you can’t. If you want to post images or videos you took with a DSLR or Tablet, you’ll need a third party app, hooked up to Instagram’s API to do that. Yet for all of that, Instagram is incredibly popular. People use it constantly and within its restrictions, succeed at sharing great images from it. I can not really fathom how Flickr dropped the ball on mobile applications and many before me have asked the same thing. I also cannot conceive of so, so, so many people who use Instagram and have never really been bothered by some of these missing features? For me, these all stand out as to what makes Instagram a crummy experience. I wouldn’t say it’s a crummy app, after all, millions of users enjoying it can’t be wrong and I can’t say it’s failed to take or save an image (and they have found technically and perceptually clever ways of uploading large files). But for me, these fundamental shortcomings make Instagram more of a pain in the ass than it is worth using. I haven’t even mentioned a mysterious icon on your personal page that does nothing (looks like a person icon within a cash register flag? It does nothing. Do I have to buy something to find out what this does?) Instagram, I wanted to get along with you but for me there are far too many gaps to make this app enjoyable. I have no idea why people enjoy it so much but that’s for them to know and me to find out, I guess.

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