“So it finally happened!”, when I opened instagram on my phone and was forced to log out of my account taleofmen, this came right into my mind. I had been expecting this moment for sometime. Yes, Instagram disabled my account, probably because of the last photo I posted, a rather innocent photo which algorithm deemed to non-conforming to the rules. There had been warnings, a few times when my posts were removed due to nudity. Because there is zero ounce of transparency, as a creator, I never get to understand if one post breaks the rules and where the borderline is.
The algorithms make mistakes, quite often. Even though sometimes you can appeal and get your posts back, the damages have been done, such as shadowban. The algorithms are also biased. Same posts can be safe if posted on other accounts, but removed if posted on mine. Meanwhile, I have witnessed many accounts being disabled or deleted. It is not a rare phenomenon anymore to see outcries from followers who demand explanations and resurrections of accounts of their favourite creators that have disappeared. Some succeeded. Many, sadly didn’t.
Oddly I was not too sad. I was rather calm, even though gutted. Maybe it’s because I had been unconsciously preparing myself for this moment. Therefore I was not taken by surprise. Of course, it’s hard to see all your hard work of 3 years gone. It’s even harder to digest the disappearance of all these real stories that portrait each individual and give voices to our community. With great power comes with great responsibility. Despite the fact that it’s never my intention to represent the gay community, the project itself automatically takes on this role in a way due to its nature and testimonials of the boys. It has become something bigger than my personal passion. I find it hard to comprehend and yet I accept it.
There are 2 other reasons why I reacted calmly. One reason was because I had been thinking a lot about instagram as a platform. Does it bring positivity in the sense that I could communicate and share my work with like-minded people? Does it achieve my goal of passing on the stories to a wider public? Does it help my project grow by helping me get funding to sustain it?The answers are yes to some extent, but largely no, if it makes any sense.
The biggest hurdle is the shadow ban. I remember the first time taleofmen got shadowbanned. It was my first ever taleofmen project trip in Berlin. I was having the time of my life since finally I was able to do what I had been dreaming of, the combination of doing photography and meeting people. I met a lot of boys and took many photos. The last day when I finished the shoot with Jerome in Grunewald, I posted a photo of him standing among the trees, hands covering his private part. Then it got deleted. The next thing I knew that I was shadowbanned.
The shadow ban went on for 2 years. Until now, it’s still in effect. Very very very rarely, the ban was lifted, 2-3 times during these 2 years. I could see the growth of the project accelerate. It offered so much joy and satisfaction and instagram showed so much potential, but unfortunately the ban was implemented again very shortly. I tried to create new accounts but they got shadow banned immediately. So I have learned to live with the shadowban. My heart aches, seeing the painful slow growth of the project. I guess, one day when my hope all vanishes, it’s when I don’t a give damn fuck about instagram anymore.
Instagram is just a platform. Without its people, instagram is nothing. I once said to someone, on instagram, you can consider 0.5%-1% of your followers as your real supporters/fans. I am not a very social person in real life. I am not a marketing genius either. Everytime I interact with someone on instagram, it’s plein me, even if it means that sometimes I don’t take criticism very well. Nevertheless, it’s those followers who voice their support and appreciation from time to time that give me the motivation to continue to do the project. I have 8000 followers now. That’s 80 people. They make a world difference for me. And I do feel grateful that they are here.
The 2nd reason is probably the most important one. I know, no matter if my taleofmen account exists on instagram or not, I will still keep on going. Maybe it’s my silent way of fighting back. Luckily I have my own website and have been investing in it for almost 1 year. Even if I need to create a new account on instagram or on twitter or any other platform, I would do it. I will continue to meet boys, collect their stories, photograph them, Nothing will change. The project itself is the essence, not instagram. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. So thank you Instagram for censoring my posts and eventually disabling my account, it’s perhaps what I needed, an opportunity to take a step back and reflect, to be most focused and assured.