As a kid I had a Kodak Pocket Instamatic camera. I loved it. My cameras and interests evolved until I was a photography major in college. After my sophomore year I realized that I needed to change my major. I knew that I would never make a living with the style of photography I enjoyed most, day in the life images.
As photography equipment went from film to digital and darkrooms were no more, I stopped taking photos. Being in an entry level job meant I was not financially ready to convert my equipment. Fast forward in time to the iPhone and early social media. I had the photography bug again. I discovered the Hipstamtic app and a community of other hobbyist. We stated with our community hashtags in the early days of Twitter and then switched to Instagram. I was happy. I found a community where I could enjoy the photos taken by “friends” and where they liked my work. It was a fun and supportive community. I participated in weekly challenges to push myself to improve and expand my skills.
Than came TikToc which lead Instagram to push their Reels over photos. It was frustrating not see photographers I follow because I had a feed full of dancers, people who appear to make gourmet meals with a battery powered blender, astrologist and fashionistas. I had very little interest in the vast majority of the Reels being pushed on me. I kept posting my “old school” photos and searching out my “friends.”
On a recent lazy Sunday morning as a scrolled Instagram, I decided to do something about me feed. I cannot do anything about the ads and suggested post, put I can control my feed. I started unfollowing accounts that had gone all Reel or whose content no longer appealed to me. Bye Bye coffee shops, restaurants and stores in the city where I no longer reside. See ya yogis who are trying to sell me something, posting Reels of their daily practice or showcasing extreme poses that can cause injury. No thanks to diet tips, powders or supplements. Adios annoying content creators.
Next I went into my follow list and made sure I that I liked the latest images from my favorite hoppy photographers. It takes a little work, but a curated feed is a happy feed. I find that I have to do this periodically with my Tweeter and blog feeds as well. My Instagram feed is once again mostly photographers, many of which still use Hipstamatic.
For me social media is a place to share my creativity through images and words. I use the various platforms to take a break, to learn new things, to read or see interesting perspectives and to maintain and cultivate personal and virtual friendships. Social media can be a hostile and negative Wild West, but I have power over what I put out into the world and what I follow. Social media mirrors life. There are some really interesting, talented, kind and funny people out there. I just have to look harder to see them through the flashing disco lights and hear them over the thumping music and sales pitches.