If Ansel Adams were alive today, would he have a Snapchat account? The answer is probably yes. Imagine for a second that our young iGeneration Ansel becomes so enamoured with adding large chicken emojis to photographs of his daily breakfast McMuffins that he completely loses his curiosity for the natural world. Perhaps his follower count is too high and he feels extreme pressure to perpetually share moment-by-moment dog-faced selfies, photos of his morning cappuccino and inane vanity-driven drivel that he never finds the time to climb those misty mountain tops?
Well that would be a tragedy, wouldn’t it?
Over the past few years, sharing saccharine posts on social media has become a necessary evil for all enterprising artists. I use the heavy-handed word “evil” because no matter what follower gain you receive from your sycophantic social media exploits, the malignant darkness of sharing things that aren’t true to who you are or what you believe in simply to please your followers, will inevitably spread from your innards to your brain, trickling down your spinal column and filling your soul with such an apathetic unease that you will find it hard to create anything truly meaningful. To an artist, that is death.
A tad overdramatic? Maybe. But, I’ve seen a lot of artists lose their voice and sense of self to the guiles of social media in the last few years. I’m the first to admit, I’m one of them.
8 years ago, I was an eager early adopter of all things 2.0, joining every social network from myspace to friendster to our lady Twitter, Google+ & Facebook. In 2007, it was the wild west for social networks and people shockingly spoke their minds. There was a lot of good that came from these early 2.0 days. I actually owe my involvement in Camera+ to Twitter and a cartoonish viking hat I used to wear in my profile picture which the founder of the iPhone development company, tap tap tap spotted while searching Twitter one day.
After I gained some notoriety and success with Camera+ in 2011, I started to cull my creativity & spunkiness because I was receiving a lot of criticism and trollish nastiness, opting for a more genteel voice that would appeal to all and offend none. No one was offended by a photo of a sunset with the phrase, “amazing sunset tonight”. No one. Doing a quick word count, I’ve used the words, “wow” “awesome”, “epic” and “amazing” more than 500 times over the past few years. And so, the sassy girl who offended many including, Katy Perry and David Copperfield with brassy, judgemental newspaper articles, was boxed up and put away into a package labeled “hyperboles to use with photos of rainbows”, along with some of my integrity and better judgement.
The result of choosing fabricated spoon-fed posts over genuine, meaningful thoughts to please and garner likes resulted in a slow and painful deterioration of the voice I’d worked so hard to achieve. In the past few years, I have taken several long breaks from social media. I’ve abandoned Facebook for months at a time and up to a year on Twitter. I didn’t join Instagram until a few months ago, which I admit was from a lingering fear of missing out (FOMO) which is an official syndrome now, so it’s not entirely my fault.
After a month on Instagram, I felt worse about my photography. I felt like my photos weren’t good enough or my content appealing enough for this new, hip crowd. I started changing the things I photographed and the way I shot them to gain more followers and likes. And the hashtags. Don’t get me started on the amount of hashtags you have to use on that platform. After a while, I was exhausted again. I had compromised my artistic vision for the platform’s vision and my creativity took another huge nosedive, much like my Valeant stock.
The question is, “Does anyone actually enjoy following “fake” content anymore?” Nothing feels authentic, because nothing really is. It feels like everyone is on a permanent vacation with a charmed life that moves along without a single hiccup. To the content creator, this puts a huge pressure on them to endlessly post only their very best and most likeable photos. To the followers, it aggravates their FOMO anxiety making them endlessly compare their daily lives with this extravagant wanderlust lifestyle that everyone else seems to be enjoying. I get so many comments that indicate that my “epic” travel photos are actually making people feel bad.
In our efforts to appear flawlessly inspirational, we’ve actually ostracized our audience.
This makes me feel horrible and has got to change.
Nothing is easy. The photos I post don’t come easy either. One Icelandic waterfall long exposure might take me a full day to drive there, hike into a location and wait for the perfect light. But my followers don’t know this. They don’t know that I dreamed of going to Iceland for years, but I’ve had a horrible back and neck injury for years that has kept me grounded for almost 10 years. That it’s taken years of photographing everyday to be able to shoot photos like this. But how could they with captions like, “such an amazing waterfall in South Iceland.” It’s laziness on my part to not tell the full story and I don’t always have time, but I feel like I need to make time.
I’m not saying that social media is fundamentally bad or that taking dog-faced selfies in Snapchat isn’t endlessly entertaining, in fact I think the opposite. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t post pretty pictures with neat little captions or post pictures of our shoes or morning cappuccinos, if that is what is truly genuine for us. What I’m saying is:
Posting content that isn’t GENUINE to who you are with the sole purpose of getting likes doesn’t help you or your audience in the long run. One day, these platforms will inevitably shift and disappear, but a unique voice and authentic style will always be timeless.
This is why, after almost 3 years away, I am returning to old school blogging and authentic tweets and posts that MEAN something to me. I hope it means something to you, because after 10 years in this game, I’m simply over being fake.
Thoughts? Anger? Love? Feelings? Unleash them in the comments below…