Eric Kim eye, with flash. Shot by Cindy Nguyen

Why I am Anti-Instagram

Eric Kim eye self portrait

If you like Instagram please please please, keep using it.

Instagram has empowered a lot of photographers and artists. After all, it is free, allows you to get feedback, followers, and connect with other artists.

But, I am personally anti-Instagram, and let me outline why I am anti-Instagram, and why I deleted it.


Reference material: WHY I DELETED MY INSTAGTAM


First of all, let me outline my ideas.

1. Instagram is an advertising platform

Cindy in Yukata and cup of tea in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017
Cindy in Yukata and cup of tea in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017

Let’s not be fooled. The ultimate point of Instagram isn’t to promote your work as an artist. It is to make money off advertising.

They essentially make money off you.


  1. You upload a picture to Instagram (or any social network)
  2. People scroll through their news feed, and like your picture, and follow you.
  3. Your follower likes you and your work, and therefore becomes addicted to keep using the Instagram platform.
  4. The longer and more frequently your follower uses Instagram, the more advertisements can be fed into his or her stream of images.
  5. The more advertisements your follower sees, the more likely they are to click on an advertisement.
  6. When your follower clicks on an advertisement, Facebook (who owns Instagram, and bought them for $1 billion dollars), makes money.

In this whole thing, you didn’t earn a single penny.

Cindy picture of ERIC sleeping in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017
Cindy picture of ERIC sleeping in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017

Of course, you can get arbitrary things like “exposure” or “recognition”. Or perhaps, you might advertise your own products on your Instagram, and make money that way. Or perhaps someone will click on your biography link, and see your website.

But the ultimate downside:You are building your own castle on a sand platform of Facebook. You don’t “own” your Instagram profile. At any given moment, if Facebook or Instagram changes their policies, they can delete your Instagram and all that work you put in, will magically vanish.

Coin Laundry. Uji, Kyoto 2017
Coin Laundry. Uji, Kyoto 2017

You have no ”equity” in Instagram. It’s like my mom, she worked at a sushi restaurant and slaved away there for nearly 10 years. She built up the business, their reputation, and brand. She trained other servers, and helped the business. But when she was “let go”— she was left with nothing. No signing off bonus, or check. No equity in the brand. She essentially wasted her last 10 years of her life, building the empire of her employer, but nothing for herself.

The same is for you. If you’re focusing all your efforts on a “Instagram strategy”, you’re a sucker. I’m sorry.

The suggestion: make your own photography website, blog, or platform. Use and I use the “Genesis” theme for WordPress which is very good.

Eric Kim selfie. Uji, Kyoto 2017 mirror.

From 2010-2017 I’ve made at least 2,800+ posts and climbed to #1 on Google. I’ve benefitted a lot personally. I am now quite wealthy (Cindy and I earn over $200,000 USD a year) and it isn’t because I’m popular on social media… it is because this blog (ERIC KIM BLOG) is popular, influential, and has a lot of information and knowledge on nearly everything Photography.

2. Instagram is not indexed by Google; it is a closed platform

I’m very pro-Google. Why? They are an open architecture network.

I’m anti Instagram and Facebook, because it is a closed system.

Which means, more or less, you must have an account to best utilize Instagram and Facebook. If you upload a picture to Instagram or Facebook, it cannot be “crawled” by Google or other search engine spiders, so therefore it cannot be indexed by the internet.

3. No easy way to export your images

As of writing this in 2017, there is no way you can “mass export” all of your images. This makes Instagram very bad. Why? They store all your personal memories and images, and you’re kind of a prisoner to their platform.

4. Death of the photo essay

Ryokan with Cindy. Uji, Kyoto 2017
Ryokan with Cindy. Uji, Kyoto 2017

There are no more real innovative ways to tell stories, or essays in photography via Instagram. It still favors the single “clickable” Image. You can make image sets now, but realistically, nobody uses it.

To make a truly great picture story or essay, examine the old pages of LIFE MAGAZINE. See how text, captions, prose, and different layout images made for a more engaging story.

Now, we’re all suckers for the “single image”. And there is little poetry in a single image.

Could Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey be written with a single verse?

Could you appreciate Harry Potter with only one word, sentence, or even chapter?

Could you enjoy a film with only one scene?

Uji, 2017. Note the edge of the top right frame and bottom left frame and top left frame... all connect quite well.
Uji, 2017.

5. We are controlled by the will to maximize our “like” number

Reflection of Cindy in Ukata in our Ryokan in Uji, Kyoto 2017
Reflection of Cindy in Ukata in our Ryokan in Uji, Kyoto 2017

Instagram softly encourages us to betray our inner artistic vision by subtly encouraging us to upload and share pictures that will get a lot of likes.

That means, you will NOT upload an image that you think won’t get a lot of likes.

That means, the same boring, generic, pictures that don’t offend anybody, and pictures that we already know gets a lot of likes.

Cindy diagonal composition with arms. Ricoh GR II with 28mm and flash, and ERIC KIM COLOR PRESET.
Cindy diagonal composition with arms. Ricoh GR II with 28mm and flash, and ERIC KIM COLOR PRESET.

For example, lots of pictures of sunsets, cute animals, cappuccinos, minimalist black and white symmetry shots, product pictures, pictures shot of hipster accessories from a high angle looking down, selfies and food, etc.

Who would want to upload a picture of suffering? Who will upload a picture of politically controversial images? Those pictures don’t make people feel “happy”. It offends people. And social media is like this walled garden, where no “bad feelings” are allowed to exist.

Colorful Japanese text. UJI, KYOTO 2017

Therefore, repression of creativity.

6. Instagram fucks with our emotions

Cindy with finger on forehead. On the patio of our ryokan in Uji, Kyoto 2017
Cindy with finger on forehead. On the patio of our ryokan in Uji, Kyoto 2017

Our brains have a bias called “anchoring” (I recommend the book THINKING FAST AND SLOW).

Essentially we “anchor” our self-worth to a number, let’s say 100 likes for a picture. Then whenever we get anything less than 100 likes, we feel disappointed and sad. And when we get 100 likes exactly, we feel normal… it was “expected”. When we get more than 100 likes, we feel excited, because we “anchored” our self-worth or value to the 100 like mark.

This is called “crowd-sourcing your self-esteem.”

Selfie. Kyoto, 2017.
Selfie. Kyoto, 2017.

I know from personal experience. My life goal used to be to get 100 likes. When I achieved that, it was 200 likes. Then 300. Then 500 likes. Then 1,000 likes. Then 2,000 likes.

I could never satisfy my “like” urges. More likes were never enough.

Picture shot from inside cab. Kyoto, 2017.
Picture shot from inside cab. Kyoto, 2017.

This happens with money. I earned $40,000 USD a year out of college, at age 22 which was awesome (better than my starving student days). But I soon made that my “anchor”… and when I saw my co-workers earning more than me (50k, 60k, 80k, 100k, 200k a year) I was envious. I wanted more money.

Even now, I’ve gone from being poor (my dad was a gambler, and gambled away the rent money, my mom worked minimum wage jobs as a waitress, nanny, cleaning houses to make ends meet, my mom filed for bankruptcy when we were a kid, I grew up on government discounted school lunches, etc) to now being wealthy ($200,000 USD+ combined yearly income with Cindy) and trust me, the money still isn’t enough. I want more money, more power, wealth, influence. I want to make $400,000 a year. Then $800,000 a year. Then $1.5 million a year. Then $3 million a year. Then $10 million a year. Then $50 million a year. $100 million a year. Then $500 million a year. I’ll never stop until I become a billionaire, or trillionaire.

7. We compare our self-worth with others

Cindy laughing at red shrine. Kyoto, 2017.
Cindy laughing at red shrine. Kyoto, 2017. Super low angle.

Anyways, the danger with social media and Instagram: we are always comparing our like and follower count with others.

No matter what though, there will always be someone with more likes or followers than you. And even if you have the most followers or likes on the entire internet, you will become ANXIOUS or fearful that someone will take your #1 spot. I once heard that billionaires were the most envious people.

And I’ve experienced this. I see other photographers on Instagram with more followers than me. And I’m like, “Why does that guy have more followers than me, when I’m such a more talented photographer!” It feels unfair. It feels like an injustice. But to be honest, that was me just having a loser-mentality.

The truth: someone with more followers than you is not more “successful” than you, they simply have more followers.

Selfie in kyoto. Eric Kim.

For example, they might just be more popular, or better at marketing themselves than you. Who knows, they might spend 3 hours a day on Instagram, commenting and liking a lot of pictures of others. Who knows, maybe they paid a company to get fake bots or fake accounts to follow them, to boost their follower count. Who knows, maybe they check their Instagram obsessively when having dinner with their family, and cares more for their follower count than spending quality time with their loved ones and friends?


Anyways, apparently even super famous celebrities fall victim to Instagram. Rappers, musicians, singers, artists, actors, etc… compare their likes and follower numbers with everyone, all the time. Many of them get depressed.

Anyways, never put your self-worth in terms of your likes and follower counts.

Creative Everyday by HAPTIC
Creative Everyday by HAPTIC

Rather, only judge your self-worth in terms of how you feel about yourself and your own pictures. Do your own pictures excite you? Or not?

Conclusion: Takeaway points

Cindy with kiss

To sum up, I’m not telling you that Instagram is evil, bad, or whatever. I’m just trying to outline the reasons why I (ERIC KIM) choose NOT to use Instagram.

1. Don’t feel obligated to use Instagram; you have free choice

DOUBLE CINDY - on grey

Nobody is forcing you to use Instagram. If you don’t wanna use it, don’t use it. A lot of people say, “YOU GOTTA BE ON INSTAGRAM!” Ignore these folks. Many of the world’s most successful photographers do not use Instagram. It might be to their benefit.. fewer distractions.

If you’re tired and fed up with Instagram, you can be like me and delete your Instagram. No, you won’t die. I feel this Zen-like sense of calm now, and actually am MORE motivated with my photography now. I make pictures for myself now.

Or, less extreme measure: delete all your pictures, and start from scratch. Or, unfollow everyone, and start from scratch.

2. If you can afford it, make your own photography website or blog

I think Instagram is a very good platform if you’re poor, and you have no other way to share your work. If you cannot afford $10 to make your own website or blog, please use Instagram. But if you can afford it, make your own website. You will have more control and flexibility.

3. Take a break from Instagram or social media

Maybe you just need a detox.

Homework assignment:uninstall all social media apps from your phone (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram) for a week, and see how it makes you feel. At the end of the week, reinstall the apps you like or miss.

4. Use VSCO instead

Kyoto selfie. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Kyoto selfie. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I am a huge fan of VSCO. Much cleaner interface, and there is also a subscription option, which makes the platform free of annoying advertisements. Ditch Instagram and use VSCO instead.


5. Follow yourself

My sister Annette. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset. Shot on Google Nexus 6P
My sister Annette. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset. Shot on Google Nexus 6P

The most important person to please in your photography is yourself. Not your followers. You don’t have any “duty” to your followers.


Follow yourself.


If you don’t like using social media, yet still want a place to share your favorite pictures, join ERIC KIM FORUM.

Further reading

Cindy in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017
Cindy in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017
  1. Photography Entrepreneurship 101
  2. Personal Photography 101
  3. Why I Deleted My Instagram
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