Some thoughts on social media and creativity, David Lynch on catching ideas, and a personal milestone I'm excited to share.
I suspect that the rise in loneliness, in people living alone, more desiring to spend more time alone, and most simply being alone more matches almost exactly the rise of social media; we've taken the interactions we used to have with actual people, based on the myriad subtleties of physical cues and nuances, and shoved them all into little public display boxes with only a bit of text and some cryptic images. And while I get that we're all "connected" via these little boxes in ways we couldn't have been before, what price are we paying for it; how can that possibly not have a downside?
“is it doing damage to our creative psyches? Has social media conditioned artists to expect a response from their work?”
About that, and more generally on the effects of social media on our individual and collective psyche, have a look at Max Fisher’s The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World.
It’s comforting to know there are 25k of us they find value in your work. Congrats, Andy.
Once upon a time, Google Plus was a cool place for photographers and there was actually dialogue taking place between photogs while sharing their work. Now there isn't any such place that I'm aware of. Sharing on IG among a group of mutual followers is the only substitute. It's a lesson in lowering expectations and getting whatever real communication you can get. It's nice when people like and comment. But I always shoot for myself and posting is also a form of making concrete what I'm doing and seeing where I want my work to go. And I do get inspiration on occasion as well.
One of the super useful aspects of Instagram is its role as a portfolio. First, there were physical portfolios for us professionals, then there was the curated professional website. Now, with the advent of the cell phone, it's IG.
Every person I meet for the first time has already checked me out on IG even before we shake hands. And vice versa. That's why I keep an impeccably curated IG page - even though I get very low readership. My page is not for them, it's for those who look me up to find out more about me as a professional, whether in person or otherwise.
So let's not throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to IG.
Yes. Instagram (for me) is doing damage with my creative psyche. Making little heart marks on images and scrolling through endless images makes me feel sort of dead inside. I feel more hopeful about photography only when I am teaching my students about analog photography. Looking at the work of so many great photographers, being inspired, seeing them make gorgeous black and white prints in the darkroom -- it definitely lights a fire in me. Instagram does not compare.
And yes I felt like there was an aesthetic rabbit hole I fell down on Instagram which stalled me seeing the beauty in the mess and the chaos of living. I prefer those photos now but it took a year of retraining my brain and a creative digital exchange with my artist pal Sarah to realise that was my practise and Instagram sort of stalled it and had me feeling like I couldn’t have that one any more!
As a photographer I now load a roll of film for a different reason a roll of film now lasts months, capturing a moment now and then, I’m not big into advertising my photography, Social media for me is used as a viewing tool, likes and Comments are Subjective in the photography world
Strangely enough, now that the Instagram engagement rate for photo posts has dropped so significantly, I feel like the pressure is gone and I started re-enjoying it as just another venue to share work and without any expectation of instant dopamine rush/rewards (similar to my website).
Hi Andy. I wrote this about flickr in 2011 – at the time the "place to be" for photographers. It seems I was already back then sick and tired of the image sharing world on the www. Specially how people take after one and each other and how it creates photography trends. I think it prevents us from feeling free when we create, to truly be ourselves. If having in mind when shooting – that you are going to share your work on say Instagram (which often generates an immediate response) – it changes the way we create. It'd be interesting to see which direction everything would go without instagram & social media. I think I'd love it. There are just too much out there now and its kinda tiring and frustrating.... But it's also an impossible thought right, I mean is there any way we'd go back to not sharing online? Probably not. Warning - the text is written by a frustrated and depressed 26 year old trying to find her place in the world. Lol.
"I don't really enjoy flickr anymore. In the beginning it was like it had opened
a whole new world for me which I couldn't get enough of, but now, it's like
I realized how small that world actually is. It's like, people look at each
others photos and they try to copy their style, they take another photo which
is actually nothing but the same one. I'm so fkng tired of people taking
photos of naked girls in different positions, pictures with people holding
cats in different ways (poor animals), pictures of boobs, pictures of menstrual
blood etc etc. What the fuck, try to do something new or don't do it at all.
I don't mean that my photos are that original, I just mean that at least I don't try
to take after what others do and think it's gonna turn out a great photo with
564 likes (and yes, those pictures do get likes) just because I know people
are so fucking boring and yeah, they do like pictures like that (I really
can't see what's so special about people standing behind curtains, I mean come
on?) Ok I lost my point. Or did I? Well ok, my point is, I don't think I even
wanna look at peoples photos on flickr anymore, because it feels like it's
destroying something in me, and I get so f-u-c-k-i-n-g tired of human beings
being told what to like, and they just accept it. Like ok, WOOOOOOOW how original
I've never seen THAT before. BORING. Point and shoot cameras really isn't THAT
interesting (even though I do love my mju) but really, really...? I mean come on." november 28 2011
I think Threads could be a great place for photographers. Not only can you share your work but you can engaged and learn from other photographers and there is a sense of community. I have had a great time meeting new photographers and engaging with them. If fact this is how I found you Andy 😂. That being said I value an audience or community for feedback and engagement, it’s how we grow. It’s ok if not all of it is “feel good”, as long as I’m learning and growing, it doesn’t have to always feel good but it’s nice when it does! I am also trying to build an audience on film photography here in Substack and on Medium, I think there is value in that for not only myself but for others, exactly what you are doing!
I can resonate with your feelings about Instagram and your analogy of tossing prints into Times Square captures the overwhelming nature of sharing in such a vast digital space. It's disheartening when the platform that was once a source of inspiration and connection starts to feel like a crowded and competitive arena. The desire for validation and acknowledgment is innate, but it's worth reflecting on whether the current dynamics of platforms like Instagram are shaping our creative processes in a positive or detrimental way.
I wonder, as you do, if the quest for recognition has altered our expectations as creators. Does the pressure for likes and engagement influence the way we approach our craft? It's a delicate balance between the need for validation and staying true to our vision. As we navigate this ever-changing landscape, perhaps it's essential for us to redefine success beyond social media metrics and focus on the joy and fulfillment that content creation brings.
Lately I've been enjoying contributing photos to smaller Facebook groups where a community feel is easier to establish. The volume of photos in my feed is much smaller, which encourages me to spend more time with the ones that are shared and to engage in recurring communication with the other members. It's just more intimate, which I really like.
Of course I do. I want people to like my work, and even buy it if they like, but I create for myself.
I learn something every time I trip the shutter. It has less to do with social media and it's "likes" and "trending" as it has with clarifying a path I chose nearly 50 years ago. It's quite similar to learning to write; first studying language, then usage and, then, crafting a message.
Wow, what a great David Lynch clip. Than you for pointing me in the direction of his book.
Regarding Instagram, at one point I was pursuing followers over there, because it seemed like the thing to do. At a certain point, it became obvious to me that it was a shallow and ultimately meaningless goal, and I lost the will to 'Gram. I still can't seem to get interested in any of those types of sites. The interactions seem made up and superficial to me. I'm sure there is value in amongst the piles of "me! Me!" posers there, but I don't care to look for it.