My changing relationship with Social Media

Social Media Spring Cleaning, 2018 Edition

It seems about once a year, I get a little fed up with social media (or some component of it) and write a little “rant” about it here on the blog. (The word rant is in quotes because I use it lightly here. I think of a rant as something I am genuinely pissed off about, and that is not the case. So it’s not really a rant, but I don’t know what else to call it.)

This time, I'm changing my approach to social media in general, although I will delve into specifics in a bit.

I’ve come to believe that social media isn't really very social at all (with some notable exceptions) and that sadly it’s mostly all about getting attention, and that is wearing on me. Yes, I completely get the irony that I share my work via social media and essentially look for attention for that too, so I include myself in what I am writing here. And of course I am sharing this article on my blog and then will share it on social media, too. I know - life is full of contradictions.

I'm just changing my approach to these things - and my opinion of them - and I no longer feel like I used to feel about social media. I'm not seeing the same benefits, and I really don't understand the need to be "everywhere, all the time".

I am also examining my photography work and taking on new perspectives, opinions and ideas about what I want to be, photographically speaking, and how I just might be able to “get there”. Since my thoughts and plans are nowhere near complete or final, I’m not digging into that today but it has caused a lot of self-reflection, which can be difficult but productive.

One thing I have learned about myself is that spending a lot of time and effort on social media is just not rewarding to me. Sure, I love all the comments, feedback, attention, likes, etc as much as the next person. My ego likes it, and it gives me a little “high”. I think that’s a human reaction to positive feedback. But, it doesn’t really improve my quality of life or help anyone improve theirs. It’s sort of like consuming sugar - you get a quick high and then it drops off. Then you want another hit to feel high again. It’s essentially a vicious cycle, and one that likely doesn’t end well. 

We recently took a week-long family trip to Chicago, and I rarely got on social media that week. It was wonderful. I spent time with my wife and daughter, took some photos, consumed some great food and just enjoyed life. I didn't post a single photo on any social media site that week, and frankly I didn’t miss it at all. Not one bit. (Ok, truthfully I missed creating and sharing a video, but that’s the one exception.)

Now don’t misunderstand me here - I am not quitting social media, though I have quit some sites and may quit more. I like to think of it as spring cleaning, social media style. I was way overdue. It’s time to tidy up the house. Things were messy. Stuff was scattered everywhere.

There are just too damn many sites to post on, and doing a consistently decent job on any one of them is nearly a full time job. Doing a consistently decent job on multiple sites is damn near impossible. You could kill yourself trying. The saddest part about this is the constant feeling that you aren’t doing enough, aren’t good enough, and all that horrible baggage that comes through comparing yourself or your life to others. So, I am shedding weight, cutting ties, cleaning house, dumping the losers…whatever you want to call it. In other words, I am getting focused on only those sites that really matter to me, because there is only so much time in a day, and life is far too short. And frankly, I don’t want to waste my time on things that aren’t helping me move forward with my creativity.

The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time. - WJ Davison

The point is that I have been a mile wide and an inch deep with all this stuff for too long. I don't like it. I find myself getting more realistic with what I can and am willing to do, and I don’t want to pretend to keep up with all this crap. It’s a total drain on my creativity, and doesn’t add to my quality of life. I would rather be creating something useful than mindlessly scrolling through a social media feed. Not to mention that I love to do many other things outside of photography, and I have neglected them for far too long. I am reclaiming some of my personal time, and it feels good.

Life is no brief candle to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. - George Bernard Shaw

And by the way, I have also unsubscribed from a lot of email “things” that have long come my way. This may look like I am withdrawing in some ways, or that I am running away from things. In truth, I am running toward a better life for myself. How can I be creative, educated and curious if I spend all my free time on social media? In this day and age, I think it takes an active effort to make time for the things we love, or else they will get lost in the shuffle of life, work, relationships, social media and more. There are just so many distractions.

To those of you who post on many, many sites each day/week and like it, benefit from it and thrive on it - more power to you. I’m not sitting in judgment on anyone else’s choices. To each his own, and all that. You do whatever suits you. I’ve just arrived at a point where I want to be better in a lot of ways, and reducing my life’s digital clutter is one step in the right direction.

So, below are some of my thoughts on these various social media platforms that many photographers use, and my current thoughts on these sites, how I am using them (or not) and whether I will continue to use them (or not). Surely I have missed listing quite a few, because I was never on them all and never planned to be. But now I will be on even less of them.

500px

This site was great in the early days, but became a ridiculous game of “vote for my photo” just so that a photographer could try and get a high score on a photo and sit atop their “leader board” for a day - presumably just to pick up lots of views. What a waste of time. So I quit posting there a few years ago and now that they have been sold, I decided to delete all my photos from there and delete my account. I wasn’t using it anyways, and it did nothing for me. It’s gone, good riddance. One down.

Vero

A few weeks back, a lot of photographers got all excited about this app, calling it the next Instagram or some such. Out of pure curiosity I bit, opened an account, followed a couple of people, and posted one photo. I haven’t opened the app since, and haven’t thought about it since until I started writing this article. The funny thing is that I don’t see anyone talking about it anymore either. I haven’t closed my account there yet, but likely will. Am I really going to see anything there that I don’t already see elsewhere, or get “discovered”, or come across some great opportunity? No, no and no. This is likely destined for the trash bin. It’s not a bad site, but it feels like a waste of my time.

Update: curiosity killed the cat, so I went in and looked at this site again. I had some pending “connection requests” or whatever they are called, but otherwise it’s all the same stuff all over again. Still not sure I will keep it. I don’t see the point.

Ello

Remember this one a few years ago? It was all the rage for a little while, but it faded quickly. I also forgot about this one, and didn’t even remember how to log in. But I figured it out and deleted my account. Same reasons as above. Again, not a bad site, but a total waste of my time. Good bye.

Google Plus

This was the first real challenger to Facebook a number of years ago, and I loved it for a long time. But it faded, and to my knowledge is mostly dead as a social network. I haven’t posted a photo there in ages, but I will admit that my YouTube videos get cross-posted here (which I choose to do). I don’t actually go onto G+ to post my videos, but since Google owns YouTube I have the option to cross-post here automatically. I figure it takes just one more click, and it may help in search, which I do care a lot about for my videos. So technically I still use this site, but only as an automatic option. I don't actually go post here at all, but obviously I am keeping it.

Trover

I used this site quite a bit for a while (a few years ago), and have to admit I sort of liked it. But I quit posting there a long time ago, and haven’t logged in in ages. I don't anticipate getting back into it, simply because it’s not a core sight for me. I will keep it alive for now but won't spend time on it. Possibly getting deleted, jury is out on that one.

Snapchat, Steller Stories, 1x.com, EyeEm, etc etc etc

Never signed up, don’t care.

Viewbug, Pixoto, and any other contest site

Never signed up, don’t care.

Twitter

I never got into this site. It’s way too hyper for me, and being rather OCD already it’s just too overwhelming for me, visually. Too much stuff, and most of it is just noise. I have my photo posts from Flickr and Instagram automatically cross-post here (along with my YouTube videos), but otherwise I don’t actually log in and use it…and I don’t care. I have considered deleting it, but still not sure if I will or not. Any reason I should keep it?

Pinterest

I rarely pin anything, but have to admit that some of my old pins continue to drive traffic to my blog even several years later. There’s a particularly long life for some pins, if you get lucky and start getting some repins. It just snowballs. There’s no formula here that works every time but once in a while it really works well. I will pin some more at some point, but it’s not a focus for me. But owing to the fact that it drives traffic for me, I will keep it. It’s also not a bad site for discovery, if you take the time to dig in and sort through all the junk.

Flickr

So many have predicted the demise of Flickr for so many years - and some say it’s dead already - but I still love the site. No it’s not a big traffic driver for me, but I do get photo licensing requests from here more than any other site (besides my blog). But mostly I continue to post because I just think it’s a great way to catalog my work, organize it, and share it - and I enjoy the community. I will keep this going for a long time, methinks.

Facebook personal page

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with FB. On the one hand I get some great engagement on my personal page and obviously all my photo friends are on it, but on the other hand there is just so much noise that it’s annoying. However, there is a secret benefit to FB and that is using Groups. In fact, I often log into FB and just go straight to a couple of groups that I enjoy. There are great people there, great photos, and worthwhile conversations happening. I absolutely love all of that. I get inspired constantly. That keeps me coming back more than anything else.

But, I get added to new groups a lot and that is annoying, so I have been cleaning that out and removing myself from them. While it doesn’t actually change my feed very much, it does make the experience on the site more enjoyable when there is less clutter. Obviously I will keep this one. I don't have a huge following here but as the largest site it’s too important to skip.

Facebook business page

I also have a FB Page for my blog, and I almost never use it. I spent countless hours trying to build it up over the years, only for FB to decide that I would have to pay to show my posts to those who already liked my page. That felt like a kick in the shins, and wasn’t worth the money, so I only post there a few times per year, and guess what? No one sees my posts - surprise! I actually think about deleting this page all the time. I may have to pull the trigger on that. It’s just sitting there, and the only way to get it active is to post all the time and pay for engagement - and I am not interested in doing either one of those. So, this is likely headed for the trash bin. If you can think of a reason for me to keep it please let me know.

Instagram

I like IG, I really do, but I wanted to love it. But I have to remind myself to post there…it doesn’t seem to come naturally to me. Sadly, there are a lot of people who seem to do the whole follow/unfollow thing which is super annoying, selfish and egotistical. Like many sites, it’s become a game about how big of a following you can have. There also seems to be a lot of pages that buy followers, which just makes absolutely no sense to me at all. I have been unfollowing a lot of pages there recently, which cleans up my feed and provides me with a better viewing experience (but no, I have never done the follow/unfollow thing). My feed is cleaner and I can be more engaged with those pages I do follow. I just want to see my friends’ photos and those of some photographers that I don’t know but whose work I admire. Obviously I am keeping this but my engagement and activity there will remain about the same, which is what I would call "medium".

YouTube

I absolutely adore YouTube these days and it’s by far my favorite site. Since I have been creating videos there over the last couple of years, I have really grown to love the whole idea and process of creating, editing and sharing my videos. It has literally given me a new lease on my photographic life, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I also really enjoy following along on the adventures of other photographers and travelers, and learning about them, their lives and their creative process. It’s actually inspiring to me, and makes me want to do much more there than I have done thus far. So, I will be talking about this again another time, but suffice it to say that this will be the site where you will find me the most. YouTube allows me to share my passion for photography with the world more easily than on any other site and I just want to pour more time and effort into this platform. I’m all in for this one, head first.

Some parting thoughts...

"Get busy living, or get busy dying." - Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption

Have you ever seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption? If not, I highly recommend it. At one point in the movie, Morgan Freeman's character Red says "Get busy living, or get busy dying."  I love that quote, and it's so appropriate. We only have so much time, and I want to spend it doing something of value. There's no point in wasting time. You can never reclaim it.

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. -- George Bernard Shaw

Well my friends, if you read this far - congratulations! Haha, seriously though thanks for reading my ramblings. By all means feel free to leave a comment, provide some feedback, share your own experiences and thoughts, challenge some of my decisions and assumptions, etc. This is just me talking and I don't pretend to know it all. I’m wandering in the dark half the time, and I bump into a lot of furniture. :-)

I just feel like I am coming to a place where I want fewer distractions so I can spend my time on creating things of value. Social media is pretty much the biggest distraction there is, and it’s a natural place for me to start cleaning house. That is one thing that I have come to realize - I want to create things that inspire people, help them improve their own creative efforts, and just enjoy the entire process. So that’s what I plan to do with my newfound free time: create, inspire, be curious, learn, think, and grow. Sounds like a win to me.

What are you doing with social media? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts! Thanks for stopping by today!