How Would You Share Your Photos if You Didn’t Have Facebook, Instagram, or Social Media?

Dear friend,

In lieu of the whole #DeleteFacebook movement, let’s do a thought experiment: How would you share your photos if you didn’t have Facebook, Instagram, or other forms of social media?

Digital Sharecropping

A FSA photo of a cropper family chopping the weeds from cotton near White Plains, in Georgia, US (1941). Photo by Jack Delano
A FSA photo of a cropper family chopping the weeds from cotton near White Plains, in Georgia, US (1941). Photo by Jack Delano

I once heard social media being likened to ‘digital sharecropping’. Historically, sharecropping was a system in which wealthy land-owners would allow a tenant to work a piece of their land, in return for a share of the crops. On paper it sounds great, but in reality– sharecropping with another form of “indentured servitude” (you essentially become a slave just to repay your debts).

Why can Facebook/Instagram/other forms of social media be likened to sharecropping? Well — think about it this way:

  1. Facebook/Instagram/social media gives you the platform to publish your photos and content (for ‘free’).
  2. In exchange, you give up personal data, information, and allow these platforms to advertise around your content.
  3. Eventually you build up a following on Facebook/Instagram, and you become stuck on the platform. For example, if you have several thousands of followers, your hand is forced– it would be unwise for you to suddenly stop using Facebook/Instagram (considering you already have a lot of followers).
  4. Eventually Facebook/Instagram/social media changes their algorithms, making it more difficult for you to reach or connect with your followers/fans. Then, you must start paying Facebook (which owns Instagram) money to access your fans by “boosting” your posts.
  5. Slowly but surely, you lose more and more control. You end up becoming a slave to the platform of Facebook/Instagram/social media.

Facebook/Instagram is a business

Now to be honest, I don’t think that Facebook/Instagram is ‘evil’ per-se. Facebook is just another company which must make profits for their shareholders (they are now a publicly traded company, which means that if they aren’t making profits or growing, their own livelihood as a business is at stake).

Facebook/Instagram isn’t an altruistic platform, nor is it a public utility like a free library or free public roads. This is the biggest mistake that a lot of people make — they forget that Facebook is a for-profit company. And like any good company, THEY MUST PROFIT! They can only profit through their advertising platform, by charging you as a Facebook business owner to boost your posts/acquire more followers/likes, and by letting advertisers have access to their users’ data to advertise products/messages/services.


Facebook/Instagram are good platforms for marketing/business

If you cannot afford to pay $10 a month for your own photography website or blog (I recommend 1and1.com or bluehost.com and wordpress.org) Facebook/Instagram/social media is good, because you don’t need to pay anything upfront to build up your own following and page. And to be honest, to use Facebook/Instagram is often a good business marketing platform as a photographer. Instagram is still growing at a phenomenal pace, and is the de-facto place to share your images/photos. In a sense, if you aren’t on Facebook/Instagram, you are at a slight disadvantage from a marketing/advertising/branding perspective.


How I benefited after deleting my Instagram

Looking up. Tokyo urban landscape, 2018
Looking up. Tokyo urban landscape, 2018

Yet on the contrary, I deleted my Instagram, and as a result, I’ve become MORE productive as a photography entrepreneur, content-creator, and blogger. Rather than caring too much about the likes and followers, I have been writing more, making more videos, and coming up with more ideas that I’ve been publishing here in my Photography Entrepreneurship 101 series. As a result, I believe that I have actually grown my profits/income as a photographer, because more blogging/content-creation = more traffic to my site, more people checking out my shop, my Amazon products, and my workshops.

For me, the biggest benefit of deleting my Instagram and spending less time on Facebook/social media: I have fewer distractions, and focus more on creating stuff that is personally-meaningful to me and my audience. More thoughts outlined here: Why I am happier after deleting my Instagram.


Why do I still have a Facebook fan page?

Tokyo man flip phone. Tokyo, 2017
Tokyo man flip phone. Tokyo, 2017

For me, it is still advantageous to have a Facebook fan page because it allows me to share my articles and posts. I currently have this wordpress.org website setup with the ‘Jetpack’ plugin which auto-posts articles to my Facebook fan page and Twitter.


Share your own photos/content on your own website/blog

Blue tarp abstract. Tokyo, 2017
Blue tarp abstract. Tokyo, 2017

Sorry I am not answering the initial question: How could you share your photos if you didn’t have Facebook/Instagram/social media?

The answer:

Your own website/blog.

This is the simple heuristic (rule of thumb) to know whether you “own” your own website/blog:

“Do you pay money for your own website or blog?”

And,

“Do you have your own hosted web server?”


Do you pay for your own photography website/host?

Pink circle. Tokyo, 2017
Pink circle. Tokyo, 2017

There are a lot of different paid platforms for photographers. Some of these paid portfolio websites include squarespace.com, format.com, smugmug.com. These platforms are good because they are easy to design, drag-and-drop your own layouts, and are quick to start. However, the downside of these platforms is that you have less control, flexibility, customization, and options in the long-run.

The solution I recommend: register your own domain (firstnamelastname.com) and pay for your own website server (1and1.com or bluehost.com) and use wordpress.org (open source backend, content management system).


Benefits of owning your own website server

Red, yellow, blue abstract. Tokyo, 2017
Red, yellow, blue abstract. Tokyo, 2017

Okay, technically if you pay a monthly fee for a website server (like on 1and1.com and bluehost.com) you technically don’t “own” the server, but close enough.

The benefits:
– You can upload files to your own online storage (FTP)
– You can create your own databases (MySQL)
– You can setup (practically) unlimited platforms on your website. For example, my portfolio website (erickimphotography.com) is running the “Koken.me” framework, while this blog (erickimphotography.com/blog) is running on wordpress.org.

What is a content management system?

Tokyo urban landscape, 2017
Tokyo urban landscape, 2017

Okay so if you own your own website server and domain (firstnamelastname.com), you need a content management system or backend framework to actually write blog posts and publish/share them.

The best content management system is wordpress.org, which powers most of the internet– including popular sites like The New Yorker, Bloomberg professional, BBC America, Reuters blogs, Mercedes-Benz, etc.

Red selfie. Tokyo, 2017
Red selfie. Tokyo, 2017

Other free and open-source options include Jekyll and Bootstrap.

Blog vs website?

Umbrella Dutch angle composition. Tokyo, 2017
Umbrella Dutch angle composition. Tokyo, 2017

So a popular question:

“What is the difference between a blog and a website?”

Frankly speaking at this point, they are the same thing.

Most people think of wordpress.org as a blogging platform. But the cool thing with wordpress is that you can design it to be like a traditional “website” (with a fancy splash page/landing page). Or you can have it setup to show you your most recent blog posts (like how this site is currently setup).

Which do I recommend?

  • If you make a living as a “photo technician” (making photos for a living, like a professional headshot photographer, a commercial photographer, product photographer, wedding photographer), having a standard website “splash page” is preferable.
  • If you are a content-creator, blogger, educator, then a blog format is better for you.

Sharing via email/messenger

Frog garbage can. Tokyo, 2017
Frog garbage can. Tokyo, 2017

Nowadays the only real place to share news, personal posts, and links is on Facebook. But the problem is that when we post stuff on Facebook, it is like we are throwing up a flyer on a wall, and hoping it sticks. It is like sending a pamphlet to the digital ether– hoping that it will catch wind, and fly high.

Selfie and Cindy. Tokyo, 2017
Selfie and Cindy. Tokyo, 2017

If you didn’t have Facebook/Instagram/social media, the best way to share is the old-school way: directly, person-to-person, via email, or messenger (text messaging, SMS, messenger apps like What’s App, WeChat, KakaoTalk, Line, etc).

Green abstract. Tokyo, 2017
Green abstract. Tokyo, 2017

To me, I like sharing things directly with your loved ones, friends, and family better. Why? You are sharing with a specific and hyper-specialized audience. You aren’t just sharing with “everyone” (like on Facebook/Instagram). Rather, you are curating your audience — people who actually matter to you. I call this “Social Media 4.0“.


What about all these new social media apps which have more privacy?

Laughing old people. Tokyo, 2017
Laughing old people. Tokyo, 2017

A lot of people are deleting their Facebooks now, and trying out these new social media apps which promise more privacy. To be frank, I think that these other platforms are a waste of time. Most of them will probably die off.

I would say:

If you want to delete your Facebook, do it.

Deleting your Facebook might be a good thing, but whatever decision you make– it should be dictated by you (not others).

Emotional benefits deleting social media

Tokyo, 2017 #cindyproject
Tokyo, 2017 #cindyproject

For myself, I know that deleting my Instagram was good for me. After I deleted my Instagram, I felt less pressure to always post something. This meant better focus, fewer distractions, and less anxiety (the anxiety that comes if you don’t regularly post everyday at noon).

Keeping Facebook (with fewer downsides)

High Perspective picture. Tokyo, 2017
High Perspective picture. Tokyo, 2017

What if you want to keep Facebook, but have fewer downsides?

For myself on Facebook, the best thing I did a few years ago was killing my news feed (Chrome News Feed Killer / Safari Newsfeed Killer / Newsfeed Eradicator for Firefox). The benefit of killing my newsfeed: I felt less “FOMO” (fear of missing out), I felt less envy toward my friends/peers, and more focus and less distraction in my everyday life.

Also a great tool I’ve used is the Facebook Demetricator (which gets rid of the annoying little red bubbles and notifications).

Privacy concerns?

Blue bottle. Tokyo, 2017
Tokyo, 2017 #cindyproject

If you’re concerned about your personal privacy, the sad truth is that if you’re on the internet, use Google, or any form of social media, your personal privacy information is (already) out there.

There are some tools/extensions which do give you some more privacy, like Ghostery. Generally speaking, I do recommend Ad blockers such as ‘Adblocker Ultimate‘.

For more privacy on web browsing, you can use DuckDuckGo instead of Google.


Conclusion

Eating ramen with Cindy. Osaka, 2018
Eating ramen with Cindy. Osaka, 2018

To sum up, these are my practical suggestions:

1. Make your own website/blog

Tokyo street photography

First of all, don’t rely on Facebook/Instagram/social media. Make your own website/blog. Here are some resources:

2. Delete your Facebook/Instagram if you desire

Dancing suits. Tokyo, 2017
Dancing suits. Tokyo, 2017. Tilted camera, on the ground.

If you want to delete your Facebook or Instagram, just go ahead and do it. It is your own personal decision. Some resources that might make the decision easier for you:

3. Share with close friends/family

Woman with cell phone. Tokyo, 2017
Woman with cell phone. Tokyo, 2017

Don’t just post for everyone to see– directly email links to your friends/family to your website/blog, or directly attach photos to email or messenger.

Some ideas:
How many likes are enough?
Social Media 4.0
How to be less addicted to social media

4. Post your photos to ARS for feedback

ARS BETA

Why share photos on Facebook/Instagram/social media? If it is to publish your photos to share them/display them, do it on your own website/blog.

However if you want honest feedback on your photos (for practical keep-ditch feedback), share your photo on ARSBETA.COM to see what others think of your photos (learn more about ARS Open Beta).

Or if you want more detailed critique on your photos, post them to ERIC KIM FORUM.


Memento mori

Lastly, remember your life is short. Memento mori.

Spend everyday making photos which are personally-meaningful to you, and don’t worry so much about the likes/comments/followers.

Woman in mall, 2017
Tokyo, 2017

Shoot for yourself and your few loved ones. Follow your own voice, pave your own path, be bold, and as Nietzsche said, “Venture to paint your own happiness on the wall.”

BE BOLD,
ERIC

Learn more: Photography Entrepreneurship 101

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