three years in the life of a pinkelephant

Isaac Mathew
8 min readOct 31, 2020

I maintain an average inconsequential Instagram plot. I am not of the opinion my content is inadequate, but I attribute my virtual irrelevance to the fact I am not particularly significant enough for people to follow. The theory I play out is, what I produce is not consumable enough i.e. not many would gain anything by liking, sharing, or subscribing to the product I put on display.

I was nagged to get an insta by a few who said it is a platform good for design research and I should use it instead of reading books. I need to be more virtually accessible or so was their pitch. I now question the premise which made me the pinkelephant but the deed is done. Signing in around something in 2018 I am a really late entrant to the plot.

There are ways the platform gets used and the course I have chosen is a public visual diary of sorts or so I think I do it that way. It is an interpretation of the brief given to me. To a disadvantage of a few, I do not have any specific agenda that I want to provide. Everyone has multiple accounts for different purposes but as far as I am concerned that will not happen.

Lack of interests in overtly curating a space (an exercise I tried on tumblr earlier and got bored) has made the account a partial image repository of sorts. There is no prompt on the platform like Facebook’s “What’s on your mind?” just a straight-up hit of someone else’s image of the day to give a certain benchmark to attain.

The time I have invested in posting falls into fourish states. The first was the snapshot phase where it was an attempt to ideate interestingness of the everyday. It was alright. I tried moving onto making graphic posts. Synced it with stories. On the feed, it seemed to not work. But I do have a loyal group that track my ephemeral thought experiments.

Then I did clouds. I was quite inspired by Noah Kalina’s Everyday to do that for two months. I even got his blessings of sorts. He said I should try and shoot during sunrise and sunsets when the sky is more beautiful. There are too many trees where I live and up is the only clouds I can get. I was hoping I could pull it off. It went well for a while. I did lose several loyalists during this stint.

These days its books. Noah says I get a black cutting mat instead of the blue one that I use as the background. It is going alright. People come and go. Some leave quite immediately after seeing my daily sparkpost emoji constructs. Which is fine. I intimidate bros with the books, therefore, I have been blocked here and there. I did haggle the foolishness that made them mad, I guess. Fun times.

pinkelephant’s #pinkupdates

& found other observations and findings

During early internet days i.e. around 2004, ’05 in the time of blogs, the internet was slow, and few had access to it. Instead of taking pictures folks wrote 1000 words and sent it across for comments. Since there were very few around, they became private activities. When people got a bit more “net” savvy they assigned or linked their custom domain names to it.

No one blocked anyone at least to my knowledge, or no one seemed to suffer social anxieties back then. That I know or was made aware. There was no trauma on who is following whom and the reaction their content received. Even when Orkut was around at least to my knowing, negativity associated with algorithms was minimal. Cancel culture and everything else that we associate as social media bad is all very 2019.

It is possible to classify people into various categories based on their follow patterns and how they keep their accounts public or private. The thing about all forms of social media is it is like a giant survey form about your life or an idea. Even if you do not possess savant statistical skills, in time it is possible to deduce what, how people are up to, based on their updates and their posts.

I prefer books over several things and when it comes to images endless scrolls, for me it does not work. I follow some accounts because they will feel bad if I do not follow back and some, I follow out of the necessity of keeping track like architectural institutional pages. I also do not end up scrolling more than two advertisements deep, i.e. around 8 to 10 images. I am also generous with my likes of other people’s posts whoever they are.

Something that I did not expect too early on, is that there were several hacking attempts on my account. Why would someone be interested in low impact individuals is beyond reason, if it was a prank or foolishness of other kinds, I am unsure of its exact details. The event did not give me any trauma since I would have respawned in another name, doing some other things.

What does give me tremendous anxiety though is other people’s productivity or the semblance of it. Especially that of writers. Manu S Pillai, that guy who wrote that book which made the Travancore princely family famous, seriously gives me anxiety. Even his non-productive days beat my most productive ones. Maybe it will take me time, now getting the cakes to bake is going nowhere.

I consider, oddly, commenting on posts as an indicator of productivity. It has gotten me followers, quite loyal ones, and other times it got me blocked. Like the exact same things gives me two completely opposite results. I only venture into plots that seem like mine and related to areas of research in design and culture studies.

If you come off as smarter than another and wisecrack on quasi intelligence the chum thinks is brilliant, certain insecurity making them feel powerful will get you blocked. At least in my case. The boomers and anyone older can take a hit here and there. This I have tested. A complete generation does not have access to a concept of constructive criticism or, so I am of the opinion.

Even though the binary is often rejected, interpretations of comments, especially those who do not know how to read can get only interpreted only as fan or troll. That in-between space when a comment is a point of discussion does not penetrate the cranium. Even friends who I physically know, I have tried to convince I am fine if their comments don’t agree with mine and I am not the type who blocks however stupid you want to act because for me its words that I either react to or ignore. I do not see any meta in engagement.

It is a bit strange to build a connection virtually and then get blocked. Several justifiable reasons are put out there to block someone but the act itself I think is badly implemented. I can always have a proxy account and stalk the person or use masking services to access Instagram. You only come to know after a delay if someone has blocked or muted you.

To mute someone, I am a bit for it, especially when that someone posts personal content or material that doesn’t interest your tastes. In both those instances, access to a kind of dormant annoyance can be disconcerting. Blocking someone maybe like an advanced mute where you just after a period of time see the content and do not get to interact. Now there is a third remove which I think is nice.

What Instagram gets in return to getting people to block each other and creating that deeper discord are more account signups. Since I have had some sincere requests from agents who want to help me increase my follower count and a pressing curiosity of how many accounts may have blocked me, I did attempt to link a set of Instagram analytics apps.

All of them have paywalls implemented and from brief probing needs, time and money for the app even to learn how interactions happen on an account. Analytics too aren’t archival but from the date/ time of installing the said app, you get your stats. The impetus to do all that was this text that had a deadline and limits of submission.

I did spend around three days, from 29th till 31st with the apps tracking my account. It did not give me any newer revelations than what Instagram business analytics already display. Sooner I got rid of them I had a surge in art bot followings. Someone told me they could be bots, i must add.

My posts operate at a level of plebeian redundancy. It is boring. I am not doing enough to make things interesting. Should I invest in better social media engagement pursuits and to what ends is the question I am urged to address? Can it be a model to be more productive where returns are increased, as in likes, comments, and follows? Now, today, I am not sure. I am open to sustainable suggestions though even if they are algorithmic.

app testing attempts

submitted for review to clog journal on 31/10/2020, additional texts added from edited notes on 04/11/2020



Isaac Mathew

i think #architecture #art #planning #design #engineering