Creative Liberation in the Death of Instagram

EPISODE 1

Photo by Tyler Mitchell

Photo by Tyler Mitchell

"We’ve made it so that you have to be special or a celebrity [to be happy]. It’s awful. A load of people feel like there’s no value in being an actual human being or a regular person. We’re all alive and doing okay and could be worse, but we make it seem like if you’re not an entertainer or an actor or someone with a high social profile on the Internet that your life is f-ing worthless." - Vince Staples

 

In our digital age, just about every milllenial, post-millenial, and gen X'er you know – including yourself, you weak-minded fool – has succumb to the sweet poison of Instagram. While I think most can relate to Long Beach rapper Vince Staple's sentiment, not everyone who's given up Instagram has done so strictly because of the personal insecurities it creates. Some have walked away because they've learned that Instagram takes more than it gives: time, individuality, reality. For the artists we speak to in this four-part series, existing and creating without Instagram has revolved around respecting creative rights and freeing the mind – motives that are artistic statements themselves.

But before you get all steamy talking about hip anti-movements, hear where these enlightened minds are coming from. Meet Kyle MacDonald, Geoff McEntire, Kyle Jorgensen, and Nick Hammond, four artists ranging from industrial designers to visual artists, who've removed Instagram from their lives in order to, "liberate the mind", as Geoff M. puts it. Since these guys are avid fans of music, as well as musicians, we thought it wise to uncover their journey of Instagram-cleansing.

Episode 1: Kyle MacDonald

 

"we are losing the individuality that existed intrinsically in us before it took over..."

 

Alright three q’s about music to kick this off. What’s the last album you heard that made you want to play an instrument, what’s the name of the last playlist you made, and what’s the last concert you attended?  

KM: I’ve been a fair weather musician for like my whole life, but music I hear makes me want to write my own music all the time. The last time an album made me actually get my guitar out and start writing was Sam Evian, I think his album Premium. That record is so easy to listen to it makes you think it was probably easy to write, too; but it don’t come easy like that to all of us, unfortunately. I usually listen to music by the album, but I’ve definitely tried to make a playlist here and there. I've never made a playlist that really held my interest. Case-in-point: the one I curated most recently is called “Bad, Dumb songs”. I think I listened to it like 2 times, haha. My last concert was Kendrick Lamar in Oakland, CA. That concert was a huge disappointment, but I still got love for the GOAT.

"...the term beat isn’t about rhythm. It meant exhausted, bored, over it."

 

So, why did you choose to remove Instagram from your life?

KM: So there was a post I saw that was like the straw that broke the camel’s back, but my disillusionment with the platform had been brewing for quite some time. I had a hard time with Instagram for a couple years that I couldn’t put words to. I would be fine, and then I’d look at it and I’d be really stressed out. I don’t know--It was almost like I was worried or something. I was confused and embarrassed and bored by like everything on there. Why was some stuff so popular when it was so empty and boring? Why were some people so influential when they were so unoriginal? And what made it worse was I was looking at pictures of my friends. People I really knew. I like watched them transform in front of my eyes from individuals who did what they wanted to and posted what they felt like posting, into sheep, posing and posting in lockstep with everyone else. And I knew they were only changing because it would get them more likes. I was just really bored.

"I was like waking up to the reality that my generation was actually, incredibly lame."

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I used to read a ton of beat generation literature. Like Burroughs and Kesey and Kerouac and especially Ginsberg, and I think I was feeling sort of the way all those dudes felt--Bob Dylan too. They were “beatniks”, a term the media used to describe this new generation of poets and writers. But the term beat isn’t about rhythm. It meant exhausted, bored, over it. These dudes were just extremely tired of what was happening to the world around them--so tired of it they had to invent a new word to describe it. I don’t mean to say that I am on their level, but I think I was feeling a little of what they were feeling. I was like waking up to the reality that my generation was actually, incredibly lame.

But I kept it on my phone for a while longer, but I started using it as a joke. I bought thousands of followers, posted grainy close-ups, dumb screenshots, etc.. I was often dumbfounded by how many likes came. And when I would run into my friends in real life they would be like “DANG KYLE HOW DID YOU GET SO MANY FOLLOWERS, YOU”RE KILLING IT." It was laughable. Then I was scrolling one day and I saw a hilarious clip made by Vic Berger, who is a genius of content in my opinion, always making art that is critical of society and politics and culture--a real “in the world not of the world” kind of internet presence. The post was by some other stupid, generic meme account with like 100000 followers, with a caption that said “Mondays be like” or something. It had tens of thousands of likes. The original post, on Vic Berger’s personal account had been up for like 2 days and had maybe 200 likes. And he got no credit for it. It was totally lifted from his page without permission and with no credit given. Pure plagiarism. I deleted Instagram that minute.

"I don't think isolation is good for creativity, but too much exposure contributes to the homogenization of culture and art styles."

 

How do you feel Instagram decreases originality and creativity in our society?

I always thought it was dumb for design school kids to idolize other designers. People were always looking at other peoples work for inspiration and direction, and you could see those styles in their work. I don't think isolation is good for creativity, but too much exposure contributes to the homogenization of culture and art styles.

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“So we did that for about six months – we didn’t listen to the radio, we didn’t listen to other bands, we didn’t go out and play music – we just sat in Barry’s studio, Danny with his drum kit and me with my oscillators, and we worked out how to make this thing make music.” - Silver Apples

 

What's the afterlife like?

KM: I don’t think I was hoping for anything amazing, but I didn’t miss it for a minute. I think the trends I was picking up on have dug in a bit deeper since I stopped participating, and it’s more apparent than ever that we are losing the individuality that existed intrinsically in us before it took over. I guess that’s the long way of saying I am glad I bounced. Good riddance.

Art by Keith Rankin

Art by Keith Rankin

Video by Kidmograph. 

Video by Kidmograph. 

What about other social platforms?

KM: It's hard to not use “social” platforms. Youtube is a social platform, and I think it’s actually really rad. There is for sure some bleed-over from the lameness of popularity contests platforms like Instagram, but there is some whacky stuff on youtube that is real cool, high quality stuff. Its like the Soundcloud of TV. It's the future. I mess wit snapchat too. It's made for goofin around, and I like that.