On Taking Pictures and Social Media
4 min read | April 26 2021
I’ve been absent from Instagram since the beginning of 2020. Even a year before deciding to pursue Deep Work I could feel the drain of Instagram’s algorithms — the three-hour scrolling binges, the constant checking to see how many ‘likes’ your latest post received, the ‘explore’ tab that always seemed to have something great inside… if you’ve ever been active on Instagram you’ll know what I’m talking about. It was too much. So I left.
More than anything, it’s sad. I originally joined Instagram because it focused on the images. It allowed me (and the rest of us) to share moments from our lives in vivid color. As much as Facebook was built for textual status updates, Instagram really was the platform that allowed us to share a thousand words in a single image. Call me a contemporary dreamer but I loved the beautiful (literally), visual community aspect of that. In the beginning it wasn’t about comparing lives or putting on a face, it was just about sharing a piece of your experience. No filters, no touch-ups, no augmented-reality face-masks, no sponsorships, etc. Just a neat place to get a glimpse of your friends’ lives visually.
After I left Instagram I turned to Facebook for sharing my images. Frankly speaking, it was …fine. I think Facebook still falls prey to many of the same issues — the ‘like button’ feedback being a major issue on both sides — but overall, it was adequate. I shared plenty of life pictures on Facebook in 2020 and felt pretty ‘eh’ about the experience. It wasn’t great; it wasn’t terrible. It gave me a place to share images from my life and that helped inspire me to take the pictures in the first place. (Not inopportune ones or moment-ruining ones, mostly just staged portraits and/or nature shots.) Image compression and processing on Facebook’s side is pretty mean, but alas.
Then I got off of Facebook. As I’ll soon follow up with, I’m very happy I did (and I don’t miss it) but since the beginning of 2021 I haven’t had anywhere to share my life-pictures. As my wife recently realized too, I haven’t been taking hardly any pictures either. Granted, that would be a good thing if I had previously been taking pictures all the time or at inopportune moments for the sake of social media ‘likes’, but that wasn’t the case. I was no longer partaking in the process of capturing little memories or scenes in my life because I had nowhere to put them.
Have you ever scrolled through your own Instagram profile feed? Not to inspect its popularity or make sure you have enough followers (that’s not good) — no, have you ever scrolled through your own Instagram profile feed just for the sake of reminding yourself of great old memories? Reviving the sliver of life that you captured in the picture as you see each one? I loved that feeling. Even after leaving Instagram, one of the difficult reasons I cope with in considering deleting my Facebook (as opposed to just deactivating it) is the rich history of my life that’s been encoded into my profile over the years. Looking back through all of that is nostalgic and wonderful. Like going through an old scrap-book. I still want that feeling and capability.
I take pictures because (1) I want to look back in the future and remember the moments and (2) I want to share them somewhere so that people I care about can see what sorts of things I’m up to (if they want to). I don’t want any of the algorithm-driven addictions (for me or my friends), I don’t need any of the fancy filters, and I don’t care about comparing lives. I want something closer to the original Instagram.
So I’m going to take a page from DHH. I’m not going to join another platform. I’m not going to create another social network. I’m going to carve out a little slice of the internet where I can share a handful of pictures from my life and the moments I appreciate. No algorithms, no ads, no three-hour binges. It’ll just be a little slice of my life on my little slice of the internet. Free from worry, comparison, distraction, notification, or feedback. Just like it should be 🙂.
EDIT: This is how https://sullyshoots.com/ was born 🙂