Popularity and the truth

So you think you’ve created a great image and you can’t wait to share it on social media, only to be disappointed by the feedback you receive after the post. Feedback is in the form of likes, hearts and comments. Has this ever happened to you? Next, you post what you think is an “alright image” on social media and you get inundated with comments, likes and hearts. Has this ever happened to you? It’s in our nature to compare ourselves. So while you’re looking at images from others, you can’t help but notice that images which are over saturated, poorly composed and with crooked horizons are featured on mainstream blogs and other far reaching forms of social media. They’re insanely popular with viewers. You’ve noticed this too right? Confused?!

Don’t let this discourage you. There’s a difference between popularity and the truth, just as much as there is a difference in creative expression, even if it means poorly composed images with other worldly colours. Just be thankful that you know the difference and can maintain a sense of integrity. This is a little harder to do than it might seem though.

What’s happening, is photographers are being caught in a dopamine feedback loop caused by the digital media and social media frenzy that is now a part of our lives. This may also hold true for society at large and in other realms. Former Facebook Executive and Billionaire, Chamath Palihapitiya was quoted just this year and said “the short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.” Many other esteemed individuals and scientists are starting to take this phenomenon seriously. A quick google search will bring up lots of interesting points of view, backed by science.

What I’m noticing is that photographers are sacrificing really great images and showcasing poor images or grossly exaggerated ones simply to get noticed and to be popular. The more likes, hearts and comments we get, the more dopamine that gets released and the more we want it to happen again and again. Sometimes at any cost. Don’t forget, that over time we become desensitized. It’s hard to break this habit as an individual but imagine what happens to society as a whole and the damage it does? All you’re doing is sacrificing your integrity as a photographer and simply contributing to this vicious and contagious cycle.

If you’ve created an image and you think it’s great, if it’s true and if it’s realistic, that’s all that matters. I’ve often said that the greatest risk that I face as a photographer is for someone to be inspired by one of my images only to be disappointed when they visit the same scene because it’s not anything like what I created.

My advice, start liking, sharing and commenting on images that have class and integrity and ones that are technically correct. Also, put the phone down and start looking at what’s around you and “be here now.”

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