Rethinking Social Media

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Okay, I give up. I’m going to become more active on Facebook and Instagram. Instagram was never my speed, and I instinctively distrust Facebook with the volume of information that a frequently-updated social media platform takes in.

Besides, Twitter, Flickr, and my blog are serving my creative needs well. I Tweet little snippets of ideas and it’s a great place to announce stuff (new articles, podcast episodes, tattoos) to people who are interested in my work. I’ve been a Flickr user for (gads) thirteen years and it’s been a tremendous source of motivation to keep taking photos and getting better at doing it.

In the past month, though, I realized that I was reacting to Instagram and Facebook the way that they had been presented to me when I first encountered them. Why do I need Instagram? I have Flickr for my photoblogging. Why do I need Facebook? I have a blog. Plus, I hate the interface and they’re so grabby for more info about me.

(Every time I log in and it pesters me “Your user profile is only 42% complete!” and then it makes a wrong guess about where I live or where I went to high school…I just smile and smile.)

I figured out how to use Instagram: it’s going to be a place where I just place Interesting Photos, without blogging about their context. And I’ll feel free to go nuts with the styling because these shots (or versions of other photos I’ve taken) are designed specifically to be looked at on small phone screens.

I also noted that I managed to acquire a few thousand followers there without posting anything to it for years (I signed up for the account early, just to make sure I got the username). Okay, let’s turn the taps on.

It’s also nice to have a social media account where the only people I follow are family, and people who are somewhere on the “friend” spectrum. I get lots of news and entertainment info from my Twitter feed and I wouldn’t follow all of those websites and TV shows if I didn’t want to see their Tweets. It’s different for me on Instagram, where I know that every photo has a personal relevance to the life of somebody I know and care about.

As for Facebook? Everything I’ve always felt is still true. I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s well-designed, and I don’t trust it the way I trust Google (which, yes, is every bit as hungry for personal data).

But sometimes you have to do things you don’t like to get the things you want. Facebook is, beyond any argument, the only place I can post something and be sure that most of my friends and family will see it. Similarly, if I want to see what these people are up to…I need to dip into Facebook from time to time.

This thought had been in the back of my mind for a couple of weeks but the point was truly brought home after I casually posted a short video of myself at the LA County Museum of Art. As with the photo I’d posted of myself in my Halloween costume, I got some welcome nods from the family.

And! Something from one of my far-flung cousins. He and his wife — whom I’d never met — happened to be in LA that same week for a different conference. Without Facebook, we would never have found that out and I wouldn’t have had such a great evening with them the night before I left.

It therefore becomes a question of “Do I want to insulate myself from family and friends?”

Well, one hates to generalize. You’re asking me “Yes” or “No”?

Okay. “No.”

There are so many tools available to you. You can drown in them. They work if you understand what they can do, and assign a clear role to them.

So:

  • The Blog. Stuff like this. Things that don’t really work as columns and articles, either because they’re synaptic misfirings, or the Sun-Times (et al) can’t push a super-timely piece through the edit cycle and onto the website fast enough.
  • Twitter. Quickies, links, fun ideas that pop in my head…potato chips of creativity.
  • Flickr. The gallery venue of my highbrow attempts at Art.
  • Instagram. Photos in Halloween fun-sized Snickers portions.
  • Facebook. A private account that I only let my friends and family see. And I’m usually there to see my friends and family.

You win, Facebook jerks.

(Oh, sorry: I mean “the executive team,” not “friends and family on Facebook.”)

5 thoughts on “Rethinking Social Media”

  1. Have you considered some type of Facebook fan page? What I mean is a page set up for your readers to follow that doesn’t have any of your personal information, but just your various publishing activities. Andy published a phone review; Andy posted a set of photos on Flickr. That kind of thing. That sort of happens on Twitter, but with its river of news set up, it’s not a reliable way to catch all that you may want to share.

  2. I’ve been so happy the past few days to see your pics on Instagram. I see Instagram as the photo equivalent of Twitter and enjoy it quite a bit, and follow some terrific photographers. Not a fan of Facebook, but do see it as a necessary evil. Hope to see lots from you on Instagram!

  3. Having you on Facebook in a more active capacity is terrific news, but please set up your personal account so that folks who are not your Facebook friends can follow you in order to see your public posts. Since you will presumably be very selective about who you friend on Facebook, your fans who aren’t your Facebook friends will appreciate having a follow option so that their timelines are populated by your public content. Cheers.

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