Over the last five years I have joined and left several social media platforms and photography communities. None of them really nurtured my creative soul, and I felt dragged into a web of lies and hypocrisy. I’ve written ad nauseam about Facebook and how much I dislike it, simply because I felt overloaded with so much unwanted information. What do I care who ate what in which restaurant, or is on vacation where? People have stopped talking and having decent conversations, and are constantly obsessed with their Facebook status, tweets, Instagram location, or gap between posts. Hell, even the most powerful people running the governments use it – and fail royally. Oh please, it wasn’t that long ago when letters were written with real paper and honest to goodness ink, took a 15 days to cross the ocean and had to be handwritten! And people are worried if they don’t post anything to Facebook and Instagram in the last eight hours?
I’m not here to rant and rave about my utter disdain for Facebook today (although I just did), but more about the photo sharing communities that I have been a part of, or still am. When I joined 500px and National Geographic’s Your Shot, I wanted to showcase my work, and perhaps engage in meaningful discussions. This, I quickly discovered, was too much to ask because it is all a huge popularity contest that focuses on the numbers, followers and votes rather than the quality. Those who use social media bots are able to boost their numbers into another galaxy altogether, and of course land way ahead of the pack. Those of us who were late in jumping on the social media bandwagon an relied entirely on quality and old-school photography barely scraped by. The snobbishness of 1x and the pressure of Gurushots left a bad taste in my mouth. For Kujaja and Fotoblur (which sadly no longer exists) I have kinder words because I met some truly talented people with whom I continue to correspond offline. I’m not even going to bother to name the rest of the platforms I have joined because they proved to be a horribly wrong decision, and in two cases it is almost impossible to delete the account.
The impossible numbers are easy to ignore once you realise that it does’t really get you anywhere. If you look hard enough at photographs that get 2700+ likes, you begin to wonder why that composite and heavily photoshopped photograph made it that far to begin with. Boobs and butts will always score mind-boggling numbers, and that sadly just proves that sex sells. Is that how far our society has degenerated? Give me an honest photograph that makes a powerful social statement, or makes me think, laugh, fume or cry, but don’t give me composite crap that looks like something my cat just threw up on the carpet and call it art. These are supposed to be photography platforms, for bizarre abstract there are more than enough communities out there.
What really ticks me off (as if I wasn’t already), is the hypocrisy of false, shallow and repetitive comments. “Great shot” “good work” “amazing colours” “fantastic light” and so on. Those drove me nuts, and still do, but what really ruins my day is “amazing shot my friend” – I give the person -100 for the shallowness of “amazing shot” and another -500000000 for “dear friend”. I don’t know this person from Adam and don’t really want to get to know them. sometimes we don’t even speak the same language and they have just used Google Translate, so don’t you dare call me my friend when you don’t even know my real name!
After experimenting with so many photography communities I finally got dragged into Instagram and decided that the absence of comments (or very limited amount) was acceptable, and I liked the anonymity. But then the other day one of my followers started using that foul line “amazing shot my friend” and I am angry all over again.
It is bad enough when people use a language that is not their mother tongue to explain a photograph (a good photograph should not be explained in the first place and needs no background music either) but to be arrogant enough to use that foreign language all throughout, half the time not really knowing what you are doing, and never correct the errors?! Call me an arrogant linguistic bitch, but if you are going to write in public, for crying out loud do so in a language you master and know well enough to recognise the mistakes! Oh, and don’t rely on Google Translate either – it may be sufficient to translate the context of a comment or leave a comment, but you are better off using your native language and not make a fool of yourself.