This post won’t be about photography but it does fit in the general scheme of things and it does touch the photography profession.
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Medium.. what do they have in common? They have users providing free content for these platforms. I say free because I believe what these platforms give back to the user is not real.
The momentary satisfaction that comes from likes and short copy & paste comments is ephemeral — a couple of interesting studies even described how bad it is for our mental health.
The exposure for our businesses or creative outcome is also limited, unless we accept playing by their rules (and eventually investing real money in advertisement).
If you think of it, what a perfect plan these companies had: just build a website and app, convince people that it is in their interest to fill your platform with their content. For free. After that, sell their data and fill the platform with ads. Profit. I applaud as such a brilliant marketing plan, but I can’t stop seeing that I get nothing valuable in return. It is mostly a one way exchange.
Before Facebook changed the rules we were writing on our own blogs. Blogspot/Blogger and WordPress were platforms used for expressing yourself according to your own rules. You could post all you wanted (provided you were not breaking the law). You could make your blog similar to yourself, unique. You could follow other bloggers, build a real community with a focus. What happened to that?
We gave up all that freedom for the mirage of greater exposure, and for the instant gratification connected to push notifications. These social networks made it so easy to “like” a post, until this fact became empty. There can be no real value in something that is requiring no efforts.
In past if someone liked your blog post he wrote a comment to let you know that. This required a certain amount of time and care. Nowadays it is a matter of a single or double tap on a screen.
We accepted watching countless ads on Instagram every day, we accepted being told what to post and what not, we accepted having less meaningful feedback, as long as it is instant.
We became obsessed with statistics like the number of followers and likes, which are absolutely pointless from every point of view, unless you want to sell ads and your business requires huge numbers.
I am still on Instagram and Twitter though in a very marginal way (see my point of view on Instagram here if you want). I never had Facebook and never will. Everyone keeps telling me I need Facebook for my business, but I tell you, my business is doing just great without Facebook, because I spend time studying and improving, instead of wasting it on Facebook. Being a trusted professional, behaving like a professional is expected to do, being prepared, kind, having a good portfolio, learning how to deal with clients, this all brings something good for our business.
Social media are not needed for improving your business. It is a myth. The only business you are improving is Facebook’s one.
So, I decided to start blogging again in 2019. If someone will find my blog and appreciate my content, fine. If they don’t, it is still fine, because I enjoy creating this content and I don’t do it for likes and followers.
A blog has no followers, no subscribers, no likes. It is all about providing content to viewers (not to a multinational) and the eventual feedback in form of comments or emails. It can’t get more honest than this, and I love it. If the visitor takes the time to write a comment, this has value — even a single comment is more valuable than thousands of double tapped likes.
I remember when in 2013 Google killed its popular Google Reader, a software for managing blog subscriptions. At the time it seemed a crazy move and Google never gave a convincing reason. Nowadays I think it is all clear. They wanted to move people away from a free (as in free speech) platform like the network of blogs, pushing them to social media. Google created Google Plus in 2011 and they wanted people to leave blogs and move to their social network. How can you control and monetise thousands of blogs, each one with its own personality and content, without common rules? How can you interpret and sell their data.. how can you actually own their data? How can you sell ads on them? You can’t, so blogging had to be turned into something not practical and not trendy.
Making blogging less practical and pushing everyone to social networks solved the problem indeed. Now we are all somewhat controlled, forced to obey to rules, slowly adapted to the requirements of their ads and data businesses.
If a social network closes, we lose it all. We could be given the chance to export our posts and media maybe, but what about the comments, the messages, the feedback in general? What about the SEO relevance we thought we acquired? It is all lost.
Like many, I lived Internet from the moment it arrived and I saw how it changed our lives. So many of its opportunities turned into greed. For a while it was an incredible way for communicating and sharing, and now it is being turned into emptiness, where we are just required to buy, subscribe, give up rights, invest time in producing free content for multimillion companies, consuming media, absorbing ads, accepting being censored or banned.
Can we wake from this? Can we still share meaning and escape the mechanisms social networks injected in our minds? I believe we can, and we should.
We can still create blogs and connect to each other. Some people will think this is too much work, and that’s fine: we should accept that not everyone is a content creator, and it is just fine to live without publishing stuff on the net. We are constantly being told we are all content creators, but we are not. And it is fine. We can still be great people and do so many things even if we don’t constantly share it with strangers on internet.
Lets’ write blogs again, then, maybe subscribing to mailing list of blogs we care for, so we get a notification when a new post is online. That’s all. All these tools are free. No one will own our content except us. No one will censor us. No stats to drive us crazy. No frustration because the social network X changed its algorithm.
I want to try this and see if it makes me feel better. I will write articles that I think could be useful to someone. I will say what I feel I need to say, no matter if someone will find it and read it. Of course, photography will be the main topic here. Photography reviews, practice as a professional, theory and philosophy — and visual arts in general from time to time. I like this project, a lot. And this is real for me.
The cover photo was shot with a Lumia 950 in Moscow. In my opinion still the best smartphone camera. I’m an iPhone user since when Microsoft destroyed Lumia/Nokia, and I miss such a good camera in my pocket. The rest of the photos are shot with a Ricoh GR II during a photowalk with Inna in Olbia.