I joined Facebook in 2010 and rapidly acquired over 7,000 followers. Back then, Followers were free and no one was aware of the addictive nature, the dopamine hit, of Likes. Immediate feedback on new photographs was encouraging and exciting. However, within a short time, I found myself stressing over the next photograph; it had to perform better than the previous i.e., get more Likes. The pressure to post incredible photographs, when most were meh, gave me anxiety; it increasingly became all about the Likes.
Rewind a decade or two: I was fortunate to have begun photography with film; waiting days or weeks for film to be developed was part of the process. I did not have an LCD on the camera, therefore, I had to make it right using the viewfinder. If an image was meh, the world never knew it existed. Likes had not yet been invented; there was no digital Cloud for sharing images. Contrast my humble beginnings with photography today and it is plain to see it is now a worldwide collaborative effort, with nearly instant feedback, whether it be from a peasant in Sri Lanka, a mom in Arizona, a programmer in Istanbul, an autonomous bot or from a colleague five thousand miles away viewing new photographs saved on the Cloud. Clearly, photography has made an enormous leap!
This leap, due to advances in technology, particularly the cell phone, along with social media, led to an explosion of incredible photography, a perpetual race to post photographs for more Likes and heralded the end of steady learning at a slower and calmer pace. The leap was both positive and negative.
I often post articles and photos on social media (and I will do so with this article). Sharing knowledge and experiences with others is the modern Zeitgeist. However, it is no longer 2010. Today, posts are heavily monetized, real and wannabe influencers compete for nanoseconds of attention; swiping has replaced reading. Further to this, when I post an image on Facebook, I am prompted to pay $10 to reach 826 people; if I do not submit payment, my post is severally throttled.
Instagram is less useful than Facebook because it is impossible to have a clickable link on each post, in other words, viewers cannot easily get to my website unless they hunt for my bio page. Therefore, I seldom post on Instagram. I respect social media’s right to charge; it is no different than purchasing ads to drive customers to my gallery exhibition or art show. Plus, social media is awash with incredible photography; it is an enormous sea of fish and paying for visibility is a neutral way to determine prominence. Decades ago, the yellow pages worked similarly, businesses paid for a large advertisement to increase their chances of being seen and I cannot imagine an alternative. Alternatively, some photographers acquired a substantial following by performing work for an already famous individual or brand and tagging their name to every post.
Social media's nature is social and I spend time nearly every day Liking art posts from other artists or organizations. Interacting with others is crucial to spreading my name, it is how the algorithm works!