I’ve had a contentious relationship with social media for a long time, but it wasn’t always that way. Initially when I started using Myspace, Facebook, and DeviantArt in the 2000s, I really liked the platforms because they allowed me to connect with new people and friends/family without needing to actually meet/see them, which I enjoyed because I was pretty shy and uncomfortable with myself in those days (and until my early 20s). In hindsight, using those sites may have just delayed feeling a need to overcome those personal issues. Anyway, that’s not the aspect of social media or period of my life that I will be focusing on in this post.
Around 2015, I started really questioning/evaluating my assumptions (and ‘our’ cultural assumptions) about life, and spending a lot of time reading and exploring different philosophies and ways of thinking. It was at that time that I basically decided that all social media is toxic, and deleted all of my social media accounts (Facebook, IG, snapchat, and whatever else). I know I was being a bit black-and-white in my thinking, but during that time I made a lot of progress in my life and thinking, so I had no reason to go back – I was more able to connect with myself, quiet my mind, and spend my time (that I would have otherwise spent on social media) doing things I really wanted to do. I also enjoyed that people would actually have to interact with me to find out ‘who I am’ or what’s going on in my life.
That basically lasted until 2019 when I went to grad school and found that essentially everyone in our department communicated through Facebook messenger. As a result, I made a Facebook, but made a point to post nothing and unfollow literally everyone so that I had no possible way to get distracted by it. I successfully maintained that model until 2020, when I was stuck at home and bored due to COVID, and wanted to get more serious about my photography.
Initially, I thought that ‘getting serious’ about it meant that I need to share it online, and that the number of people who follow me or like my photos are reflection of how good the photos are, and that it would help me grow and improve. As a result, in 2020 I started an Instagram account, which was my first time ‘really’ using social media in years. It’s a slippery slope though, and I eventually also made a personal IG account (which I later deactivated), separated my street photography and portrait photos onto two accounts, started posting photos on Flickr, and ended up occasionally uploading stuff on my Facebook account too (rationalizing it by thinking maybe my family members would like to see it). I also soon realized that in order to get people to even see my photos, I had to be liking lots of photos and generally being very active on the app. Exhausting af.
The engagement on Instagram is mostly shallow, I’ve received very little useful feedback, and honestly I don’t care to receive feedback (positive or negative) from random people I don’t know or respect anyway. However, it’s hard to not get caught up in the comparative mindset on Instagram. The app places a numerical value on your profile in the form of followers, which makes it difficult not to compare oneself to others based on that number. It’s also hard not to compare your own photos with each other based on the number of likes, ignoring the fact that many people may never even see your photo, depending on the algorithm. Besides that, I find myself drawn to taking photos that I know will attract people’s attention, even if I find them meaningless or uninteresting. This bothers me a lot because it is inauthentic, and being fake or doing things for others’ approval are some of the least desirable qualities I find in myself and in others.
Long story short, I’ve felt like shit much more frequently since I started using social media again than during the years I was away. I find it exhausting to be bombarded by so much information and stimulation, often finding it difficult to relax after distractedly spending hours online throughout the day. It also makes even less sense when I consider the reasons for my interest in photography. I have no interest in ever being famous or making money through photography, so why am I even thinking about hashtags and followers and stuff like that? It’s easy to get distracted and crave recognition when we start comparing ourselves to others, and that really takes a lot away from the enjoyment of the process for me.
All that to say, I’m going to take a break from social media for one month and see how it goes. If I can find another way to connect with other photographers, then I will no longer have a use for social media, since that is the only use for it I can see at the moment. I will still be using this blog and also will write a follow-up post on my experiences after that month is up. I will delete the Instagram app from my phone and also be posting nothing on any other social media platform during this time.
If you want to keep in touch with me, feel free to contact me through this blog’s contact form. Be well.