I never thought I’d do this, but I quit Instagram yesterday.

It wasn’t Instagram’s new terms of service and privacy policy, though those are terrible. I don’t relish the idea of my friends’ faces and data being sold for advertising, but it happens all the time already. No, if I rage-quit social networks for reasons like that, I’d have been offline since they let high school kids onto Facebook. I live my life online as though I’m freely making stuff for other people to sell. It’s fun. Who cares?

Of course, I do it with the explicit knowledge that I’m doing so. I don’t post things I don’t want to be publicly available. People who don’t realize what’s going on are screwed. So don’t get me wrong, I am utterly disappointed in the businesses chosen by the dominant Web companies.

But I quit Instagram for another reason. It’s going to sound pretentious, but I really don’t mean it that way. I grew out of it.

Out Of The Box

I didn’t take photos before I had a smartphone, and I wasn’t a photographer before I got Instagram. I didn’t know where to look, how to frame, or where to gather the light. I was incapable of using a camera.

But through the amazingly simple mechanisms of Instagram, I was able to get software assistance for my shots and human feedback on my choices. Instagram taught me everything. It taught me to care about photos.

And now I do care, and I look at these little low-quality, brown-shifted boxes, and they look so much more boring than the wild visions in my mind.

Add on to that the fact that any free social network will eventually be covered in unsightly ads, and you see why I quit Instagram. It’s not inspiring anymore.

As John Paul Titlow just wrote, Instagram will surely survive these changes, but it might be worse off for it. Avid photographers are not feeling it anymore.

The Social Network

I went to Flickr. I’d never used it before. Like I said, I never really took a photo until Instagram came along, and many people trace the downfall of Flickr to precisely that moment.

But Facebook played the other part in that. That was the social shoebox for photos when I got started. Flickr was still around, but when Facebook added photos, my start-up cost fell to zero. Facebook was the first social Web product I ever really used. It was a generational thing.

So when Instagram sold to Facebook, I was thrilled. It seemed like such a natural combination. I’d have a full-featured one-stop shop for sharing my photos with the people in them. Alas, the novelty wore off.

And then Flickr released that new app right before Instagram released that new policy, and I realized what I had to do.

I wanted all my photos on the Web in the highest quality. I wanted to be able to share them or keep them private as needed. I wanted to control the rights around their use. I wanted to be able to take more pictures, upload them, organize them and talk about them while mobile, but I also wanted a full-featured big-screen interface when I was at my computer. And I was happy to pay an established company, Yahoo, to provide the service, so I could be sure it would keep working.

That’s why, along with dozens of people in my networks, I joined Flickr yesterday, and we found tons of old friends there waiting, happy to see us.

Lead image via Flickr Commons.