the importance and implications of social media
Big thank you to all the great people to who helped with this article, I would love to read your comments below. To start with, I wanted to share this video by Simeon Quarrie and his thoughts about Social Media, Photographers, blogs and the sharing of content.
Please please please, watch this video, Simeon is super on point about this.
Please do check out Simeon Quarrie’s amazing company – VIVIDA – as a spokesman, ambassadorial growing figure in the photographic world, Simeon and other people in his place really do have to learn far more than just camera craft these days. In order to be a success it seems social media is a main concern.
If we look at people such as Lara Jade, Joey L, Rebecca Litchfield, Benjamin Von Wong, Kirsty Mitchell, Miss Aneila, they all have something in common. They have massive social media reach. The rise of the superstar photographer is not a new thing at all. Photographers such as Chase Jarvis and Scott Kelby were quick to use the power of social media to empower and create hype around their business. In fact, it could be said that the whole concept of Creative Live and its success is wrapped up in how much time creative people spend on the web. The Internet has become the starting and end points of many an artist’s Thought process. Ideas are born online, created, then given back to the Internet. The problem is that the Internet is the home of free speech and, my gosh, don’t people know it. It now seems worse than ever. It does not matter who you are, there is someone ready, armed and primed to spring forth from behind a keyboard to attack and insult. The anonymity of the Internet seems to give people the right to criticise and abuse as they
seem fit in an open and public way. Over the last few years I have been dealing with one person who seems to have quite a personal vendetta. The lengths he goes to is quite amazing to be honest, but, yes… it is upsetting and I am sure, as you read this, you can remember a story of your own that comes to mind. My friend and photographer, Rebecca Litchfield has a new book. As the press machine roles into action, blogs start going up as well as reviews from the Huffington Post, the Guardian etc., and it is shocking to read some of the comments. She said,
“I think, with social media and the ease of sharing stuff, sometimes your photography gets put into contexts that aren’t really fitting and it takes away from the original meaning, and then people end up being destructive and send over criticism. It only takes a few seconds to explain, but it’s annoying as you can never keep up with where your photos end up and what people are saying about them. I just ignore any negative ones. It doesn’t really have a negative impact on me because I know some people are just wired that way. Trolls, they just get enjoyment out of criticism because they are jealous, have nothing better to say or just genuinely enjoy criticising”
The Internet has given direct contact between creator and viewer in a way never seen before. We have had to not only think about the content we are putting up but also how and why we have to be prepared to deal with negative comments, and sometimes personal abuse. It seems that it is faster to create and share work but it is also faster to be cut down when people do not like it. Having a thick skin and understanding of how to take negative comments has always been needed, but thicker skins than ever are needed for this fast and brutal way of presenting work and being represented. Back a few years ago creative people were hardly ever in front of the people viewing finished work. Years ago, the only time people would get critique was if the content maker actively went out looking for it. It was then given with the correct understanding that someone was looking for constructive guidance. A photographer, for example, would take work to a camera club and sit amongst people who would explain views and offer guidance within a constructive and supportive way. Telling someone they are shit on Facebook is not helpful or kind. Not only is it offensive but sets a displeasing tone for other people that are viewing the images. These days we just have people press a ‘like’ button, not so dissimilar to a simple, cheap version of X-factor. We can be judge and juror from our armchairs and be as brutal as we like. I mean, it is not like we know these people or that we would ever have to actually speak to them. Most of the time when I read comments on the web, I find it hard to think that humans wrote them for another human to read. These days putting work out to the masses can be a very un-fun process and something that many people do not enjoy doing. Artists are people too, critics will be critics, and people will be people. But never before has a creative person been in such a firing line from people who want to blindly fire insults. I have seen photographers attack other photographers openly and privately. This needs to stop. Editors and publicists used to help advise and deal with negative input when it arrived, and things were controlled. People have told me I do not take criticisms well, but forgive me if I do not value your view as highly as you might wish, and please don’t mistake this as arrogance, it’s just that before I listen to advice I want to know who is giving it and why. The next time you are commenting online about something and the creator or owner is not next to you in human form, please do think about how you might come across to them. Artists do have feelings you know…
recent example: I use Facebook in two ways, I have a personal account and a photography page. I am open and welcome people on both pages and regularly engage with people. I do my best to try and keep things nice and flowing on both pages. Due to the nature of the things I shoot, many of the girls are pretty and slim. This alone causes unwanted comments, such as “wow, great tits”. These sorts of comments get removed and repeat offenders get blocked, using the Facebook settings. I think this is fair for me to do on both pages I look after. Some see this as censoring or monitoring the comments and only letting things I like being posted on my Facebook walls. To an extent, yes. After all, it is my Facebook page and I can do what I want with it. I want a nice environment and want to set the tone and feeling for the images I create. Another story. A girl added me on my personal Facebook account, then proceeded to go though all my photos and give harsh, near nasty, comments under the name of critique. Was I right to have a problem with this? When I asked the person what they were doing, the response was, “You have photos, you’re a photographer. Don’t over edit, blur the fuck over them and not expect comments about it.” It should be pointed out that she was talking about personal snaps taken on phones, and photos that other people had tagged me in by the way. She was commenting on non-work images, just snaps of family and friends, not one comment on anything related to work. A little strong I thought. Regarding the ‘over-edited images’ she was talking about. She was talking about Instagram. Trying to explain to my family why I cannot post family snaps on my Facebook account in case someone comments that my Mum is not up to my normal standard of model is not nice at all. It really does seem the element of common sense and decorum is lost these days. This incident was not nice and it did upset me as much as it upset others. In this world of free speech, people can say anything, but still, they have no right to be rude or offensive. I have, and always will, remove rude and offensive comments where I see them in relation to my work. I do not agree with non-constructive, mean, nasty and hurtful words said over a public network. To sum up, we should all remember how worrying and daunting having work out in the open media can be, and some people can be very hurt when the right things are phrased in the wrong way. Speak to people how you would like to be spoken to and remember there are always other ways to say something. Be tactful and aware that we are not all used to having critiques. However, the other side of me is quick to say that if you open yourself up to praise you also open yourself up to other things too, and we should take this into account. I spoke to photographer Kirsty Mitchell about her experiences with this aspect of photography. She said,
“To be honest I seem to be in a bit of a magic bubble with regards to that because I have barely ever had any negative comments or haters. I’m incredibly grateful for this because it seems everyone I know has suffered from it and it really, really affects them. I don’t know why it is this way, but I only seem to get very kind people contacting me…..*……* There’s also the whole ‘troll’ thing of people who get off on that stuff. I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinions, I just think people are far less polite, and tend to react with kneejerk comments… write their outbursts and then carry on with their day, not really giving any thought to the impact of their words. Whilst the person receiving the negative energy can be destroyed by it.”
*editor note, some information has been removed due to personal content, but the message was an encounter which started to cross personal lines and become offensive – even the blogs about blogging have to be tightly controlled! I think this sums up the whole point. The internet is place where one must be super careful about what goes online. You never know who is reading, why they are reading and what they will do with the small bits of information provided.*
Keeping confident and keeping your head up seems to be key. People will always find faults and people will always be rude when they have a keyboard to hide behind. In my eyes, Benjamin Von Wong has the right approach. I asked him if he ever had to deal with negative comments about his work or about things online.
“All the time! Lots of jealousy and criticism despite an overwhelming majority of positiveness. I love constructive criticism, but if it is just trolling, I don’t even bother reading it. I believe that the thing to keep in mind is that most of the people that are busy criticising and intentionally lowering people are rarely out there creating themselves. With that in mind, I rarely take the time to reply unless I feel like there is something important to defend, and when that happens try to do so with the utmost politeness. I do not ‘filter’ my posts so long as it aligns with my brand image, which means inspirational, positive, aspirational, epic, unique…”
A few years ago the hot topic was the ‘Film or Digital’ debate. It brought out many different views and many a coffee was drank discussing the positives and negatives. This went on to the next big topic and the raised question of ‘did digital kill photography as a profession’. Now we have the ‘is the DSLR dead?’ question being thrown about in forums and chatrooms all over the web. There is never a lack of things to disagree about in the photography world. Over the years I have seen the fallout of comments and articles my friends and other people have written that have then spilt over on to Facebook and become personal. Facebook brings different views clashing together like never before. Recently Martin Gillman wrote a post for inmybag.net that carried the title ‘5 Reasons DSLR are obsolete in today’s world’. Sure, it had a title to provoke attention, even maybe click bait in nature, but the kickback was almost quite personal against Martin. I don’t have to be anti-the-future to understand that things change. Cameras are changing, the way we work is changing, let’s just deal with that and not start attacking people who have a view. CSC cameras like the Fuji X-Pro and Panasonic’s GH4 are here to stay and are game changers for many people. If you don’t agree, you don’t have to attack the other person for having another view. The article got quite a stir on DIY Photography too. These comments can be controlled from the middle to a point, the writers and editors can work to moderate the site. Hanssie Ho is the managing editor at SLR Lounge. I asked her about the role of the blogs, and how to keep free speech in check with having a nice place to build community.She said,
“The writers and editors work together to moderate all comments. We don’t allow rudeness or disrespect. I mean, you’ve experienced it on that first article. We aren’t afraid to block people. We welcome opinions but they must be constructive.”
The first article Hanssie is talking about was, in fact, an article about myself. It was an interview where, in the comments, the validity of who I was and why I was being interviewed was questioned by someone who turned out to be the same person posting again and again under different names, to build up a negative tone. The problem was maybe a little bit of my own doing and I learned a good lesson that day. I had been far too free with the amount of information that was about me and my personal life on social media. I had grown up with Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Instagram being cool ways to hang out with friends. I had elements of my personal life that showed me at my worst. I shared the good and bad over the years, it’s all out there on the web. These days I try and just use these platforms for showing another side of me that is all work. Kirsty Mitchell has some good thoughts,
“This is why I would never share my personal life online.My photography is completely separate. My FB personal page is on lock down to about 300 friends, who I know and have spoken to. I have about 3000 ‘waiting’ friend requests I just ignore. I don’t have Instagram or any other social media outlets that blur the lines. Never let the crazies in. I only post my professional work on my FB business page and that’s it. I know too many people who have been really upset, like you. I’m so glad I grew up without Facebook. I love it now, as an adult, as I can handle it, but as a teenager… god, I can’t imagine the pressure and mess you could get in.”
I guess that is the thing. Making the dividing line in our own minds about which elements we are sharing and where. If we only put up a professional public side on the web, we can never risk being attacked personally. We can build a barrier to let us keep a state of mind that ‘thick skinned’ people talk about.
“Social media channels promote a strange existence where ‘busy’ is glorified and everyone is ‘having an amazing day’. Facebook ‘likes’ and comments are politically charged actions not a true reflection of thought and emotion. And if we can’t completely trust the positive reinforcements, why waste time worrying about the negative reinforcements?”
Tigz Rice is correct. Social media is a strange thing; however, it is very clear ‘we’ need to play the game. We need to be active on the web. need to be bloggers, writers, video editors, workshop hosts. We need to be WordPress wizards and SEO gods. We need to be able to use Photoshop and know every latest style and technology. Which hard drive, which camera and which battery. What bag are you using? Which memory card? At some point, you being a photographer and all, you have to take photographs and get paid. The problem is, the social media bubble is the one where most of us market ourselves.
I asked Jaron Schneider (features editor of F-Stoppers) about his thoughts on being involved with the world of social media while staying safe and keeping out of trouble. He said:
- Don’t treat your social presence like a megaphone. Social media isn’t a soapbox. It isn’t a place for you to go to just yell out a message and hope someone will receive it. Social media is about engagement and interaction, so focus your content on what drives that. Engage with your followers, listen to their needs and provide the content that speaks to that.
- Don’t get into arguments. If you can learn one thing from watching celebrities fail again and again at social, it’s that you should not use the mediums to engage in angry arguments with followers who may or may not be trolling. The most recent example is Adam Richmond, a Travel Channel celebrity who went on an Instagram tirade at a follower. In the wake of the incident, the premiere of his new show was indefinitely delayed. When the world is watching, quite literally everything is on the line. Don’t risk your whole career with one emotionally charged incident.
- Remember your roots. At some point you were a nobody. Likely a large majority of your readers are where you used to be. Stay off a high horse, keep grounded and remember to talk to your followers like you want to be spoken to. Everyone appreciates humility and genuineness.
I could not agree more with each point that Jaron makes. If your business is professional, you need to act professional online – and in fact in all places that you are. This is not just about being social; this is just how things should be. In short, we ALL need the power and reach that being ‘social’ gives us and there is no way round this, it is the way the world is going. It is time to fully embrace being a Social Photographer. But remember: having 200,000 fans on Facebook won’t make you a better photographer, but it can get you jobs if you work it correctly.
Kirsty Mitchell –http://www.kirstymitchellphotography.com/
Hanssie Ho – http://www.slrlounge.com/
Benjamin Von Wong – http://www.vonwong.com/
Jaron Schneider – http://jaronschneider.com/
Rebecca Litchfield – http://www.rebeccalitchfield.com/
Tigz Rice – http://www.tigzrice.com/
Dave Kai Piper – http://blog.davekaipiper.com/
Simeon quarrie – http://wearevivida.co.uk/