A Material World
This Instagram thing has continued to rankle me because, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, it was once my favorite app, and the fact that it is doubling down on its attempt to become a rival to TikTok is just sad to me. Instagram did a particular thing beautifully, and there was no need for it to try to be anything else. But as they did not consult me, my choices are to complain or to adjust.
When I talk to others who are shifting to video content, their logic is understandable: it's a marketing tool. Businesses need to do marketing. But I've always had a little trouble with the black-and-white logic of consumerism and the bottom line of business. Yes, money. But can't (and shouldn't) business have other, equally important aims? I have waded into making my shop site shoppable through Instagram and then stopped short of doing so because I dislike the "Shop Now" banner that sits on the bottom of shoppable posts. Am I overly sensitive? Or does it get tiresome to you, too, that our culture is so in-your-face about spending your money, especially given that our society is debt-ridden and full of disposable material goods? Please let's all stop telling each other to shop, you know? How about a banner that says "Save Your Money!" Or "Shop Owners for Responsible Consumerism"?
And a harder question for me still: if that's how I feel about consumerism, why in the blazes am I running a retail shop?
It's a question I have struggled with forever. Did you know, in the beginning, that I felt wildly uncomfortable even processing a transaction? I'd rather just give it all away. My brain works in irrational and even self-sabotaging ways, and I recognize I am bizarrely wired. But there is a core of human care inside of that flawed logic. The core is this: I want to treat you first as a person. Not as a credit card. Not as a transaction. Not even chiefly as a customer. As a complex human being, and one who would be much better served by a consumer world that values complex human beings. Can a business be as interested in your inner life as their bottom line? I'm trying to find out.
And when that's the goal, it makes me wince a little at making the primary message of my shop communications to be, "SHOP!"--even though I carry things I love and even though I want you to have them if you love them, too. It makes me wither at the thought of putting my own precious time and energy into chasing an algorithm that a company is creating in order to maximize its profits. We might benefit in our way, but we're also benefitting Instagram by doing its bidding, and you know what? When its bidding is different from my bidding, this lady doesn't have time for that. As I have said before, THE JOY IS THE THING. When the joy's gone, you've got to take your cue and exit.
Am I quitting Instagram? Not yet. Not exactly. Let's say what was a hot and heavy relationship is now a long-distance friendship. But there's a freedom in that. A freedom in reimagining, given my peculiar notions, what marketing for my little shop might look like. You can bet I'll keep you posted.