Around 2011, I was on a shoot at Mount Taranaki, and everyone had these devices called ‘smartphones’ and I had not really considered using these as a working photographer.
After seeing them updating their adventures live to on lookers – I proceeded to invest in my first iPhone for marketing my business. I started using Instagram and Facebook pretty much straight away exploring the simplistic social media platforms aimed at photographers. My followers grew to more than 10,000 and so did my investment of time over the past 7 years. But it started to make me unhappy.
At the start of 2018 I stopped using Instagram & Facebook. I learned that life without Instagram meant those little hearts that make us so insta-happy for an insta-second were gone. Comments- the spam comment – are now history. No more hashtags. No more flicking my thumb up and down to browse a stream of food, sunsets, and other snaps, and hit heart, heart, heart. No more repetition of the same visuals. NO MORE ADVERTS.
Then there is Facebook. Both my business and personal pages became a habit that sucked the time from my day. When feeling mentally fragile- all social media became a mine field of comparison and FOMO. The time to cull this noise was on the cards for a number of years and 2018 like 2011 is a significant period of my digital life.
So what was the catalyst for quitting? Simply put I found it a waste of my time in the end, and that I spent more time looking at life through a device than living life. The feeling of ‘fun’ in the early years of the medium felt more like an ‘obligation’ – a pointless sharing of life to the internet with zero logic. Fact is that Instagram was not the same platform it was when I started using it. Fact is that my writing, vulnerability and being honest about my work and creative life grounded to a halt. I became lazy and isolated.
Initially it all felt somewhat devastating if i’m honest. It felt like I had quit smoking all over again. I had a feeling of real loss. My urges to check the constant flow of visual noise and distractions had ended. When anxious or bored my pacifier had been misplaced. I felt oddly vulnerable. Like quitting smoking- it’s everywhere when you are going through withdrawals- but unlike ‘cancer sticks’ in the eager hands of some people- THERE ARE LITERALLY PHONES IN EVERYONES HANDS. Car drivers, work people on building sites, kids, literally everyone. It just ain’t right. No one even interacts anymore.
Seeing the reality of this digital disease spreading through our very being – helped me to move on. All my fears surrounding ‘how do I market my small business’ and ‘you will loose connections to people’ soon dissipated too. I’ve been an advocate and passionate believer in constantly adding content to my business website – which has enabled great page rankings with Google. I therefore have a digital business model that is sustainable, not based on paying for reach. Most of all a model that reaches my audience better.
The fact is that loosing business if i don’t post to Instagram every day is not true and I found the complete opposite actually. The non stop ‘urge’ and ‘need’ to constantly be connected digitally re aligned my need to connect in person. This is where I get leads and work. Digital has never been a positive place for generating commercial photography work. It was like a primitive gut reaction once I quit. Old school. The utter reality and fear of wasting my own journey in life through a device; to focus back on creating more, to focus on people, places experiences and real world leads- is way more compelling. The end.
On a deeper personal level my views of the negative impact of social media and it’s use for manipulation- and particular FB and Instagram were so loud that I could not ignore it any longer. I had quit Twitter in early 2017 due to the hateful focus of it’s political agendas content- so it was logical to look at other platforms. Social media is FAKE news and views that though algorithms- consume our every thought and life. An echo chamber. A device of control. A device of FEAR.
Photography wise, so far my free time has been invested in a range of projects to include more website content and blogging- starting a personal podcast- shooting more portraits- looking at my commercial work with more methodology and planning and more importantly not having a device as a constant distraction.
I’m not going to preach. I’m personally happy to not be part of digital voyeurism and self comparison/ lies anymore. The utter pointlessness of it all is now laughable. It has led to more quality ‘real-life’ time with people I care about and more creativity.
This year I aim to use my smart phone less overall. I’m already leaving home with out my phone and loaded up my old iPod for music. It’s a liberating feeling. The personal echo chamber has now gone. It feels strange. It feels like a new frontier. It feels right.