Being an intentional member of virtual communities

telephone booth, analog

I’ve started so many posts for the month of April that I never got around to posting.  As someone who wants to take blogging more seriously, I need to work on FINISHING WHAT I START (…WRITING, in this case).

Something that’s been a lot on my mind this past month especially, but for a while now, is how to organize and share my photos in more meaningful ways – that is, that takes part in a community of people/gazers/observers and noticers – instead of just posting them into the ether (what’s the point, then beyond the creation of our personal archive, which as important goal but not enough for me).

That’s why I’m more active on Instagram now, and that’s what had motivated me to start participating more on Flickr. It’s also why I signed up for EyeEm, and Juxt, and AMPt – all very active, rich communities centred around photography, phone photography specifically…. and I ended up in this complicated social web of all these places, all these sites, all these sign-ups, and SO LITTLE TIME. Just keeping up with the emails and feed updates from these communities took real chunks out of the hours of the day.

So I’ve shifted my thinking to treat virtual communities like physical communities, at least in some ways: we can only commit to so much in real life activities before we burn out or fail at our commitments. I hear things, and sometimes have said things, like “stretched too thin” or “bit off more than I can chew” at work and from friends and so why wouldn’t the same apply to online commitments?  I think that’s how I want to treat my online community participation from now on – like commitments that need serious intention and consideration and yes, some investment of time, if I am to be a TRUE participating member of the community.

Which led me to think long and hard, without yet a truly satisfactory conclusion about Instagram. Even with all the hoopla over Instagram and its terms of service and the way they supposedly treat the photographic works of people, I can’t quit it, I can’t (“I can’t quit you…” rings in my head). There are SO MANY amazing photographers and creative people participating in the network that I would not have otherwise discovered without a serious amount of net-surfing and searching. I’ve had to justify to myself why I’m staying with Instagram and the biggest part is discovery, and subsequently, the ease in connecting and communicating with those you discover.

(I really did try to like EyeEm, another rich community that opened the door to Android users way before Instagram did. But the UI is clunky for me, and I can’t filter out the hundreds of ordinary and some really junky shots against the few really really good ones. And it always takes a long long time to load. But I still recommend it for people looking for an Instagram alternative – tons of terrific iPhoneography fans are part of that community. It’s just not for me, after trying three times to like it.)

So I’ve taken 2 steps recently to firm up my commitment to photographic communities, in a small, intentional way that works for my life:

  1. I’ve joined ProjectLife365 and am posting daily to the project hashtag whereever I might post (though I’ve committed to posting these pics in Instagram). In the 3 weeks since I’ve started, I’ve come across about 15 other project members with whom some kind of dialogue has started, and stumbled across some amazing women (it’s mostly been women) who are moms, business women, artists, students just sharing snippets of their lives or their perpectives on life through #projectlife365. It’s the neatest thing. I’m so so glad I joined up.
  2. I backed a Kickstarter project called Pressgram, the brainchild of John Saddington. When I first heard about it, my mind gave a tiny little groan, “Not another photo app.” But then the developer’s TRULY open attitude, perpective and sincerity about what an open community that values and respects the individual’s creative works caught my attention, and then my respect. The initial project blurb, and subsequent project update posts, are really worth reading. Ironically, it’s really different in terms and intention of what Instagram is about, but there it is: we are all paradoxical creatures.

I look forward to seeing how the Pressgram app and its resulting community shakes out. It’s particularly of interest because the plan is to be integrated into the WordPress community so it will be neat to see how that network and this blogging platform connect.

So, here’s to meaningful interactions in virtual spaces out of mutual respect and interest in photography and capturing life!

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  1. Pingback: Instagram, still thriving | Parenthesis

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