Since last October (’22), I’ve been posting some of my images on the Vero “True Social” network – and largely ignoring Instagram.
I’ve enjoyed the experience, for a number of reasons.
- Vero has a proper tablet-based app, not just an upscaled phone app. So you can see images in full-screen scale (which is great). It does have a number of quirks, but I can live with them. Of course, as with all of these apps, things can change …
- There’s a lot less stress involved in uploading images. I don’t have to wonder whether the crop ratio will be respected, and I don’t have to force multiple images into the same (normally square) ratio.
- Most importantly, I’ve not been worried about the notorious “nipplebot” (although there are rumours that IG might change that). I hate censoring my images – I’ve not found a way to do it in a way that doesn’t destroy the integrity of the image – and I don’t want to end up tailoring my shoots so as not to offend an AI which has, so far as I can tell, actually gone insane. (As an aside, I think that also leads to a misleading perception of humanity).
- There’s no “algorithm” limiting who sees your posts. With IG, people can follow you, and won’t see your posts – unless you pay to let them. So I’m getting as much engagement with 120 followers as I was getting with 350 on IG. And you don’t keep getting pushed into Reels (Although you can post videos)
- You can limit post visibility in a number of ways, if you want – there are three levels of “friend”.
- You can also “Introduce” members to your followers.
- Most of all, I love the community (I’ll talk about that in a minute).
Now, admittedly, Vero tends to be photographer-centric. It’s not really there for your selfies and family snaps (although – from my point of view – I’m probably not interested in your breakfast). It also, obviously, has a much smaller potential reach then IG.
But in terms of validation, I find I value the engagement much more, so although the user base is smaller, I’m getting more “likes”.
And that engagement is coming from across the board in terms of genres – not just the boudoir side. I’m being followed by photographers work in (amongt others) street, wildlife, still life and landscape photography, which is really refreshing.
Yes, there are still hashtags to search, to find photographers you’re interested in.
There are also “hubs”, such as Pictas and raw_community, who curate specific interests -whether by genre (e.g. travel, portrait, food, street, insects, waters, tattoos – and my special interest, boudoir) or by technique (drone, macro, monochrome etc). These help you find other practitioners in your interests, and give you a chance to have your work seen by those communities.
And specifically on the boudoir / art nude side, there’s actually a user (“Kojo”) who’s created an index, introdcing photographers on Vero working in this genre – which has helped me locate other inspirational photographers.
Above all, I find the community is generous and supportive, not just click-and-scroll. And people seem to find the time to leave lovely, thoughtful comments.
[Edit – 25/2/2023]
And I’ve realised this has changed my own behaviour. I now actually look forward to editing images, in the knowledge that people will see them – and like them ! It’s not a “duty” – as is the case with Instagram. I’m even going through my old shoots, finding new images I love to share with my followers. That had stopped happening with Instagram (which would have blocked most of them anyway, of course).
These images would probably wouldn’t have got off my hard drive (and I’m probably better at editing them now than I was then).
And I can contrast this with my experience with Instagram – I’d internalised a process which could have been designed to generate anxiety 😱. From choosing a not-my-favourite image to edit (so as not to upset the insane AI), to transferring it to my tablet, then cropping to fit the allowable aspect ratio (or possibly processing in an app to make it square), to finally uploading it. And then hardly anyone sees it, and when they do it’s in a tiny compressed format.
(One of my posts has been “in review” for 9 months now).
And there’s more going on with Instagram, of course …
As reported in this Vox article, Meta are following Twitter’s lead in charging users for “verification”. That’s £180/year for each account.
- It apparently gives you “more protection against account impersonation” – something that (in my experience) will benefit people who follow your account (and may be susceptible to fraud), rather than to you personally (other than the damage to your good name). Although whether Meta will actually actively do something about this (rather than just blaming your followers if they trust unverified accounts) remains to be seen. This should be a given – it’s just part of safeguarding users’ personal data.
- More reach – but only on its Reels and Explore features. Which don’t really interest me, as a niche still photographer.
- A “badge”. Big deal.
- Customer Service from a real person. So I can get someone to put right the screw-ups from the insane AI.
- And (unspecified) “exclusive features”. As they’ve not redeveloped the app to take advantage of tablet devices, I’m not holding my breath. (Aside – probably because there’s a big cost implication in storing and delivering much larger image files.)
Cory Doctorow wrote this article for Wired (before the Meta announcement) in which he prophetically identifies a process online businesses follow, which he’s christened “enshittification”. He’s relating it to TikTok, in this article, (and also Amazon), but we can see the same process being followed in post-Musk Twitter and the various Meta apps.
(The basic problem is that quoted companies – particularly in the USA – are under pressure to deliver growth – both externally (mainly for “activist shareholders”) and internally (for executives and employees vested with share options – and who want to keep their jobs).
Doctorow identifies three stages of enshittification.
- When a platform starts, it needs users, so it’s good to its users
- Next, they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers.
In IG’s case, this means you now have to pay for eyeballs (and – consequently – followers). My engagement halved in 2021. People want to see my work, but the notorious IG algorithm has decided they’d rather see sponsored posts instead (sponsored posts, btw, won’t get cheaper as you get “hooked”). Doctorow has identified how TikTok “heats up” new sponsored posts.
Doctorow phrases this as ” they abuse their users to make things better for their business users”
- Finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves.
Doctorow’s identified in detail how Amazon has managed this. At this point, the app is completely enshittified (Facebook has been enshittified for years now).
- Then, they die.
Now I can’t promise that whoever runs Vero (or whoever runs it in the future) won’t follow this pattern, but at the moment, it’s quite a nice place to be.