Though I currently use Facebook and Twitter to spread the word of what I’m doing with my photography I have realised that I have been cutting back on being engaged in social media. My growing dissatisfaction with social media is one part of the deep background changes that are currently happening in the culture of photography.
I post regularly on Facebook (here and here) and Twitter (here). It's basically drop and run. I only comment now and again on posts by friends, or in a couple of groups where there is still a minimal sense of online community. I then leave social media alone. My reason is that I don't really like Facebook and its algorithms, and I detest, if not loathe, its business model approach to the way it collects, stores, or analyzes its users’ data. Facebook is an advertising business that tracks people first and foremost; it is a Big Tech company that aims to become the operating system of our lives.
This kind of negative reaction to social media is probably quite common. Joel Colberg, for instance, has an interesting post on what is happening in photography and social media. His argument is that social media has had a destructive impact on the public sphere of online photography. I agree with him and so I suspect would many other artists.
Referring back to the time of blogging prior to Facebook and Twitter (circa 2008-2009) Colberg comments that this form of the world of photography online a decade ago was a lot more vibrant than what we’re witnessing/experiencing now. He says there is:
... as much — if not more — high-quality writing online now as then. However, the sense of community and excitement that existed back in the day is completely gone. In a nutshell, social media have essentially atomized a vibrant community, to turn them into a group of loners that might engage politely with each other but that each just take care of their own domain. And that’s it. [Previously] ...there was a general sense of excitement, of producing something new, something that would bring value to the world of photography. That’s all completely gone...It will be impossible to squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube.
Social media has become a toxic whirlpool and the toxicity will only get worse. It is time to move outside the social media box. Colberg says that people in online photoland need to search for ways to circumvent social media. I, along with others, agree that we need to escape the social media giants’ algorithms.
What then are the suitable replacements or options that could help to bring back the sense of online community that has now been reduced to an algorithmic segment on Facebook?
One option being suggested, and which is in formation, is for photographers to set up a mailing list. This is what Colberg plans to do. Andy Adams of FlakPhoto is already doing it. It's an experiment and it may shake things up. However, these newsletters are private--ie., delivered direct to the inbox on the computer or phone ---they are not public like a blog. How would such a newsletter help to create a sense of a photographic community? How would they help me out of being a loner and enable me to connect with others?
Would not the blogosphere be another option? They haven't gone away, and there are some very informative blogs with good writing. For the tech world see here and here. And the photography world? Well, here's one in Australia. And another. Then there are websites such as Talking Pictures and Sophie Berrebi that offer a wealth of information and knowledge.
These examples suggest that blogging still a viable online format as well as being viable for photography online. But it still leaves the online community problem that Colberg identifies--the sense of community and excitement is not there. My experience is of blogging is that the blogs receive little in the way of comments on a post, and so there is no discussion or an ongoing conversation. Usually there is just a tick of the like button when the post is published on Facebook. Some get more likes than others. And that's it.
More experiments to shake things up are probably needed if we want to put some of the toothpaste back into the tube.