I’ve coined a word for the use of imagery on Instagram — for photographic technology on Social Media in general: pixting.
Pixting is to photography as texting is to literature. It means engaging in perfunctory conversation by utilizing pictures instead of words across a digital medium. It’s visual smalltalk; the appropriation of a one hundred and seventy-year-old technology called photography for visual chitchat.
But there’s another dynamic at play on Instagram: the vast preponderance of “content creators,” people who enjoy illustrating what they ate for breakfast to a close circle of friends, are not influencers per se. For some influencers it’s a job description. They work hard at it, 24/7. It earns them income. I’m not trying to disparage any porridge paparazzi, but millions of social media snapshots cannot accomplish what one commercial photographic illustrator can do, even pretending to be an influencer, to get you to buy a brand of breakfast cereal.
Instagram influencers with large followings are often supported by commercial marketing agencies who hire ringers to shoot pictures that look like user-generated content. But it is not UGC. Many of these photos are created by professionals, hired for their ability to reliably produce an “amateur-looking aesthetic.” Attribution of the resulting pictures is, shall we say, disingenuous. The point is that social media is just another medium for advertisers who pay pro photographers to create content the traditional way.