Indignity Vol. 2, No. 61: Doing it to the 'Gram.
THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE DEP'T.
Instagram Pivots to Video
ADAM MOSSERI, THE person in charge of Instagram, put out a video today about how video is the future of Instagram. He posted the video on Twitter. Possibly he posted it on Instagram, too, but I didn't see it there, because who goes to Instagram for video?
The video about how video is the future of Instagram was a terribly unappealing piece of video. It was two minutes and 28 seconds long, and I had to force myself to watch it past the halfway mark. Mosseri sat awkwardly too-upright, leaning toward the camera to press his points, alternating between clasping his hands in his lap and making emphatic gestures. He wore a rich golden yellow sweater or sweatshirt, and the room behind him was dim with dark-green walls and white trim; his eyes were magnified by his glasses.
The colors gave the whole thing a bit of a visual signature, at least, but the details were uncomfortable. Over the sweater, he wore some little necklace with a round pendant that kept distractingly flopping around, and his stubble and his faltering widow's peak looked raggedy under the camera's unwavering gaze.
Video is a performer's medium. Instagram is, or was, a place to put up photos. It does as many different things as photos have always done—celebrating, showing off, declaring something—but what I like about it is the simple ability to present a moment of outward-looking awareness: I saw this, you can see it too.
Mosseri conceded that this was what Instagram was originally for, and what a meaningful part of the user base comes to the app or the website to do. "Now I want to be clear" [hands shoot out in loose fists, then tap together at the body's midline] "we're going to continue" [looks down and to the left as hands make parallel chopping motions that way] "to support" [left hand turns palm upward, right hand swipes over it and continues across the body] "photos—it's a part" [taps hands together and spreads them to the corners of the frame] "of our heritage." [Pinches fingers and thumbs together, brings them toward chest.] "I love photos" [thrusts hands toward camera, opening them out] "I know" [gathers hands in lap, leans forward] "a lot of you out there love photos, too."
Nevertheless, Mosseri told the camera, Instagram is going to shove more and more videos at its users, because that is what the users really want, and because it is the way to "help creators" [hands press together over breastbone] "reach more people" [hands spread apart, bouncing with the rhythm of the words, to the edges of the frame]. Instagram is also showing some users a full-screen version of the app, as a test of "a more fun and engaging experience," even though the full-screen presentation "is not yet good."
This is why, presumably, my own Instagram feed—where I go to see photos from a fairly small set of people, whom I know and like—now has a rack of little autoplaying videos called "Reels," which as of this morning featured some woman in tights straddling a branch and apparently humping it, as a joke. Reels are Instagram's attempt to compete with TikTok, a successful social media company that does more or less the opposite of what Instagram was originally built to do: serving up a stream of algorithmically-sorted, context-free videos from strangers.
It was hard to believe any of Mosseri's message had anything to do with Instagram, per se. The logical reading of it was that it played like a palette-forward hostage video because it was, in fact, a hostage video. Instagram is owned by Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, which changed its name to Meta last year to signal it was changing its focus from running a predatory surveillance-based advertising network, in the guise of a popular social network, to running...some sort of goggles-based virtual-reality space, called the Metaverse, where people will interact as cartoon avatars?
Nine months after the name change, I have yet to see even one person wearing Meta goggles, let alone to enter the Metaverse myself. And so, presumably, while Meta's new central purpose remains in beta, purpose-wise, some other divisions of the company have to start squeezing out more revenue.
The whole thing is a centrifugal spiral: Facebook originally bought Instagram to eliminate it as a potential competitor, to recapture users who were more interested in sharing photos than in doing whatever they were supposed to be doing on Facebook. Now Meta is trying to sacrifice Instagram's original function to capture people who would rather be on TikTok than on Facebook. Mosseri's message would be a mordantly funny in-house recapitulation of Facebook's fraudulent and destructive campaign to force the media industry to "pivot to video," if it weren't for the fact that users have to look at it. And video looks terrible on Instagram.
VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.
The Worst Thing We Watched Today™
More consciousness on Instagram.
READER ENGAGEMENT DEP'T.
Aphids: the popcorn of the insect world! For a couple of years, I was a postdoc at Madison in a group of ecologists, one of whose main interests was aphids and their predators, of which there are many.
This is quite true of aphids—so true that it was a challenge for the Indignity art desk to find photos listed under "aphid" by Getty Images in which the aphid was a visually prominent element. The aphid is not the protagonist of the aphid's life, as recorded by human observers, but mainly something to be exploited or eaten by others. Here is a brief sample gallery of additional aphid images, funded by agreement between Getty Images and our backers at Substack:
Do you have a thought? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you could tweet it and include @Read_Indignity to get our attention.
SANDWICH RECIPE DEP’T.
WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of a select sandwich from Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes, Copyright 1916, now in the public domain for the delectation of all, written by Marion Harris Neil, M.C.A., former Cookery Editor, The Ladies’ Home Journal, author of How to Cook in Casserole Dishes, Candies and Bonbons and How to Make Them, Canning, Preserving and Pickling, and The Something-Different Dish.
VEGETABLE AND CHEESE SANDWICHES
1 Liederkranz cheese
Cut the green tops from some young onions and some radishes and slice both very thinly lengthwise. Let them lie with some crisp lettuce leaves for one hour in ice water. Then drain and dry. Dip a leaf of lettuce into boiled dressing, and lay it on a slice of bread; over this place a layer of cheese, then a layer of radish, a layer of onions, some more cheese, then another leaf of lettuce dipped in dressing, and a slice of bread.
If you decide to prepare and enjoy this sandwich, kindly send a picture to us at email@example.com.