Social Media: A Photographer’s Curse and Why I Chose to Break Free

I’ve deleted social media, which means I’m either having a mental breakdown or there’s actually some method to the madness.

Social media has become such an integral part of a photographer’s journey. I myself had become so immersed in it that I’d spend a large portion of my day on apps like Instagram and Twitter. Building profiles, portraying the perfect life and living for likes; it absorbs so many of us, including myself. I’ve known for a while that I was moving toward a point where I had to break free.

My Relationship with Social Media

In the beginning, the way I used social media was pretty harmless. When I first set up my Instagram account the only people that followed me were friends and family. It was a great way to visually show what I had been doing to those that mattered the most. However, over time my followers went from the tens to the hundreds and eventually from the hundreds to the thousands. With that my relationship with social media evolved. The same is true with my Twitter account, although I must admit Instagram was always the main focus.

“I didn’t get into photography for this.”

As the followers went up and the messages of love and hate poured in, I got to a point where my main focus was sustaining and growing. How could I get more likes? How could I improve engagement? It was this constant cycle in which I would find myself awake late at night googling “strong social media strategies”. At the point of deleting my accounts, I would describe the relationship as unhealthy. Doing things like checking social media as soon as I woke up. Telling my friends “hang on a minute I just need to reply to this DM” when I should have been conversing with them. At the very worst I’d be up all night either arguing or reading comments from trolls.

I didn’t get into photography for this.

“I now have the mindset that I would rather share five good shots than 365 mediocre ones.”

Social Media Can Limit You as a Photographer

I’ve got friends in marketing and have good connections with photographers with big social media followings. The common piece of advice they would give me was, “You need to have a theme.” You can’t post a captivating street photograph one day and then a beautiful landscape the next. Oh no, that’s not the rules. Followers need to know what to expect. They need to see consistency in what you post or otherwise they will lose interest. So, I played the game. I was a good little boy and did as I was told. With that, I found I was limiting myself with the photos I took. “That won’t work for Instagram” became my thought process.

Again, I didn’t get into photography for this.

The Narcissistic Aspect of Social Media

Has there ever been a time where society was so focused on the individual? “I’m in it for me. I do it for me. ME ME ME.” Social media is an extension of this. I mean the whole idea of “followers” in itself creates some cult leader mentality as millennials walk around with a God complex. And maybe it’s the only child in me, but I was definitely developing some narc traits. I would feed off of the approval of people I would never meet. A negative comment, or just a comment that didn’t quite meet my expectations, would soon be causing emotional harm.

“I need likes! I need love! Love me!”

Disgusting, really. And for me, not a healthy mindset for photography and life in general. I think there’s a difference between being a good photographer and being a popular one. Sadly I had become too focused on being the latter. But we all know that many popular photographers are not necessarily the best ones.

“We have created a parallel universe – the cyber one. And I belong in the real one.”

When I first picked up a camera it wasn’t because I wanted to be popular. I did so because I wanted to respect the art form and become good at it.

Reconnecting to Photography and Myself

Self-portrait.

As 2019 came in so did the traditional targets I set myself. They vary each year, however, one common goal is to become a better photographer. I want to expand on my knowledge and skills with the hope of producing better photos. Another goal was to live in the real world. I’m tired of feeling like a prisoner. I’m exhausted with all the toxic back and forth with people who wouldn’t even know how to make eye contact in the real world. We have created a parallel universe – the cyber one. And I belong in the real one. So, with that came the decision to delete social media. It was time to end the cycle of post, check likes, repeat. It was time to get fully immersed in taking better photos and exploring new land.

I have been a month without it and honestly, I feel free. I’m focusing more on taking a better photograph and venturing out more into portrait photography and seeing what I can do with that. I’ve stayed with Facebook because it has helped me to build connections and it brings me $$$. It serves a purpose more than just virtually smacking me on the back. I have scaled back on sharing photos though. I now have the mindset that I would rather share five good shots than 365 mediocre ones.

The Truth About Social Media

This post is not intended to hate on social media. Whilst I think there’s a very unhealthy mentality linked to it, I recognize its benefits. Social media isn’t inherently toxic but had become toxic for me. That’s why stepping back was the best direction to go in. Will it be forever? Who knows. But for now I’m content in my choice to walk away and I feel really optimistic about the future.

If you feel a prisoner within your social media apps and feel more of a marketer than a photographer, maybe it’s time for you to make the change too. Something worth thinking about at least…