Paranoid about spending too much time on it, I uninstalled Instagram from my smartphone three days ago hoping to stay off it for at least two weeks. But I was back on the app within six hours.
Plagued by similar concerns, my younger sister deactivated her app about a month ago. Now she scrolls through the feed every night using my account instead and ends up spending more or less the same amount of time on the app as she used to before the deactivation bug bit her.
The bigger scare? We are not the only ones.
Last year in June, Instagram announced that it had one billion people using its app across the world and as of September 2018, 50 billion photos had already been shared on it, which is quite a humongous feat for an app that’s less than nine years old.
If the obsession of regular users like me who use Instagram just to stay updated with the goings on of everything we care about has become such a compulsion, what it must be like for people who have made careers out of being on the app?
How much is too much?
With 6.4 million strong following, Bhuvan Bam was named the Entertainer of the Year by Instagram on Thursday. Despite being a social media sensation, the 24-year-old says he still personally manages his Instagram himself, much like pastry chef Pooja Dhingra and fashion vlogger Sejal Kumar. With 2.5 million and 547 thousand followers respectively, Pooja and Sejal were named the Food Account and the Fashion Account of the Year.
On the time he spends on Instagram each day, Bhuvan said, “When I am working or shooting, I don’t go online because that’s really distracting. But once I am home, I want to know everything that’s happening in the world. So, I easily spend 5-6 hours a day.”
Sejal, meanwhile, said she spent 2-3 hours a day on Instagram. “Because most of our work is there. We also need to check how our posts, videos are doing. So it’s not like we are constantly stalking other people,” she said.
The need to detoxify, get off the app and into the real world is getting increasingly real with every new like, share and comment.
Bhuvan says oftentimes he uses Instagram so exhaustively that he forces the app to tell him to take a break. “Instagram has this new feature which says ‘You’re all caught up’. It feels insulting that even the app is now telling you, ‘Bohot ho gaya. Ab na thoda ghar waalon ko jaan ne ki koshish karo,’” he said.
Sejal says she took a break from internet four months ago because she felt “very consumed” by it. “It helped me come back better, creatively. It is really important to have that one day a week when you are focusing on the other things,” she said.
Pooja too took some time off Instagram recently. For her, the way out was a pristine holiday in Andamans with no internet connectivity. “I had no network for eight days. From a personal space, it was great to just be able to control your phone usage,” she said. Otherwise, on an average, she spends 4-5 hours a day on her phone.
Another pressing concern, especially for creators who consistently produce original work, is their content being lifted by fake accounts.
Bhuvan says there is little one can do about it. “People use your content all the time and they never give credit—even big FB and Instagram pages. No one can tell where a WhatsApp forward is coming from. Now they have started another new thing—they’ll put their logo on top of yours. That’s why I leave it up to the audience. Since they have seen your content before, they usually mention in the comments that at least tag Bhuvan,” he said.
“There are different kinds of plagiarism. You can only learn to manage it because there is nothing else that you can do about it,” he added.
However, Saket Jha Saurabh, Head of Entertainment Partnerships, Facebook, India, said Instagram had recently launched a product called Rights Manager, which creators can get through an application-based process to safeguard their content. “Influencers can apply for it. Once they have it, they can create base files to check, block and monitor content,” he said.
As for regular users, they can always report copyright infringement. “So suppose you see something that you know is Pooja’s or Bhuvan’s, you can report it. Among the reporting criterion, there is Intellectual Property where you can go and say, ‘Hey it’s mine or hey it’s his and this user is using it.’”
“The violator will not come to know of the reporter’s identity. So anyone can anonymously report a copyright infringement. We then obviously get into action to see if that’s true,” Saket said, adding, “As a company, we are very focused on ensuring that copyright is protected on the platform. We’ll continue to scale it up but it’s an ongoing challenge and will never completely go away.”
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My first swim in the ocean! 🏊🏽♀️ For most of my life, whenever the pool/beach was involved I always stepped away. Growing up with body issues I always found an excuse to not go into the water in public. I still remember a 6th standard school picnic where I pretended I had a stomach problem and couldn’t swim. It’s taken many many years to deal with issues and to learn how to be accepting of myself. Finally l decided to break old patterns and take a jump! Thank you to my wonderful friends for creating such a safe environment for me to heal @chefpablonaranjo @kurried @pankil81 @_anishashah @deviqi @shernaz17. And special thanks to @kairesortwear @siya_nemani for all my bathing suits!
A staggering social media following is both a boon and a bane. You may get trolled, abused and your content thanklessly copied, but you also get to create what you want to, be paid for it and enjoy a loyal audience that’s ready to lap up everything you put out.
It’s no surprise then that content creators love to get feedback and engage with their followers. “Comments do matter. If they are positive, then they really encourage you and they keep you going. Aur bure comments toh har jagah hote hai. But I personally find engaging with my followers very healthy,” said Bhuvan.
For Sejal, communicating with her followers affects her work directly. “I have made proper videos just inspired by comments and I make sure I mention that person. So it’s pretty exciting,” she said.
“My audience is actually the best. They give me really good ideas. So I bounce off that a lot. Sometimes as creators we feel like ‘idea nahi aa raha hai yaar’. So I just ask ‘Hey guys, what do you want to see next week?’ and I get lots of ideas. It’s a great way to connect,” she added.
Instagram, much like technology and other social media platforms, is a double-edged sword. You need to know what you want from it to get it right. Even the ones on top of this game agree.
“It’s a lot about how you use the platform. I follow only 175 people. They are mostly accounts that add value to my life instead of making me feel negative. Nobody is forcing you to follow what your classmate is doing. Try and use it for positive reasons,” Sejal said.
Pooja concurs. “Now Instagram lets you see how much time you’re spending on the app. You can set an alarm if you want. I know friends who do this. They will spend an hour or two on the app and then they know when they have used their daily consumption. So there are ways of controlling it. It totally depends on you and what you use the app for. For the three of us, it's our work, business, way of life,” she said.
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