Facebook for Real People (Who Happen to be Photographers)

Within the past three days, I’ve deleted roughly a quarter of my “friends” from Facebook. Over the years I’ve accumulated a number of them – people I went to high school, college, and grad school with, people I worked with or collaborated with on projects, people I met briefly on my various travels, and people I honestly didn’t know at all.

Facebook has evolved a lot since its first incarnation. I know, because I’ve grown up with it. Facebook was released the year I became a freshman in college, and at the time, it connected you to a small network of your classmates. Now, thirteen years later, it can connect you with the world, providing followers with an intimate glimpse into your thoughts and private life.

Despite accumulating more than 1500 “friends” on Facebook, the actual list of people who are fundamentally important to me is pretty small. In my real life, I don’t talk to a single person I went to high school or college with. When I go visit my hometown, I usually tell only my mom and two of my childhood friends. Aside from them, the people I keep in touch with by phone are almost exclusively people I worked with or went to grad school with, and I can count them on my fingers. Many of my closest friends aren’t even on Facebook anymore, and those that are tend to share very little.

I ended up with 1500 “friends” the way anyone who is social and nomadic can. I grew up in a decent sized town and went to a decent sized college, and have worked a lot of different jobs in different places. I traveled a lot, moved a few times, and went to many different conferences and workshops where I met a lot of people. When I worked for NatureScapes and was heavily involved with NANPA, photographers would connect with me that I did not know and had never met before, but as a brand ambassador, I accepted their friend requests, compromising my personal privacy to help build the brand and connect with potential clients and collaborators.

I’ve wanted to cull my friend list for a while. Facebook doesn’t make it easy – there is no easy way to go through your list of friends in a stagnant order (such as alphabetically) – but devising some trickery I was eventually able to search my whole list and begin the process. I unfriended the people who used fake profile names when I could no longer remember what their real one was. I unfriended people I plainly didn’t recognize and had no idea who they were or why I had connected with them in the first place. If I couldn’t recall how I met someone, or if I met a person only once years ago at a conference or workshop and never communicated with them since, I unfriended them. If they were someone who I knew but never really talked to – people who lived on my floor in college freshman year, friends of friends who I only saw with those other friends – they got axed. The same with significant others of friends and friend’s exes who weren’t really friends of mine. I unfriended people who had died, the parents and siblings of friends whom I knew but didn’t have any relationship with, and most accounts that had been deactivated. I unfriended just about anyone I had never met face to face in real life – the few who I kept were those I would recognize in person and want to grab dinner with based on mutual respect and common interests. A few of those I unfriended were talented photographers, so if possible, after unfriending them I followed them or their photography pages instead. I deleted high school and college classmates whom I had little interaction and no shared memories with. When people had duplicate profiles, I figured out which one had the most recent activity and deleted the other.

I unfriended anyone who had ever made me feel threatened, like the older male photographers who offered to take me on photo trips with them and the people I hardly knew who used Facebook as a platform to stalk, offend, attack, and demoralize others or whose actions repeatedly made me feel uncomfortable, upset, or angry. I unfriended annoying people when social niceties didn’t prevent me from doing so – the people who only interacted with me when trying to sell me a product from their multi-level marketing scheme or encourage me to vote for them in some stupid contest. If I felt unfriending them would result in unnecessary drama because we lived in the same town, worked in the same place, or had mutual friends, I just unfollowed them instead.

After all of this, I still have 1130 of the 1500+ friends I accumulated in the past dozen years but I suspect many more will go in the days, weeks, and months to come. Facebook has become an easy outlet for sharing photos and life’s moments, but I really don’t care if someone I met at a conference knows what color I painted my living room. More important things like relationship updates or additions to the family are things I’d prefer to keep more private, and Facebook’s ever changing features and privacy policies make it difficult to continually regulate who can and can’t see specific things you post.

I no longer accept friend requests from people whose names I don’t recognize and have never met face to face. I operate a Kari Post Photography Facebook page and post my work there instead of on my personal private page, yet I still regularly get friend requests from photographers. I deny every single one. This has been my routine for several years now, and it’s clear to me that posts on my personal profile get more views and likes thanks to Facebook’s algorithms that hide posts from pages to discourage engagement. I don’t care. If the cost of getting my work seen by more people is sharing personal moments of my private home life with strangers, I’m not interested.

To see my photography on Facebook, feel free to check out and like the Kari Post Photography page. When you “like” and “follow” the page, you can opt to see posts in your news feed first (you can adjust your notifications by hovering over the “Follow/Following” button) which will ensure you don’t miss anything, as the default setting allows posts to fall off your news feed quickly. The more you visit and engage with my page, the more relevant posts from it will show up on your newsfeed. If you actually want to connect with me for professional reasons – to collaborate on a project, get together and shoot, etc – you can send me a message through my Facebook page or if you prefer, find me on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the platform I prefer to use for networking and professional connections, and if you send me a message, I’m happy to connect with non-friend photographers there.

Facebook is No Friend of Mine

I am the Facebook generation. Facebook became a thing my freshman year in college. That means I was one of the first to use the online social media platform. Since 2004, I have had a Facebook page and lived my life, or at least part of it, through an online profile.

I never had a MySpace profile because I found them too creepy. Facebook, in it’s infancy, was different. When I joined, Facebook was limited only to those with college or university email accounts. This automatically limited the audience of my profile to those similar in age and pursuing an advanced education degree – this exclusivity made it seem safer to me somehow. While my first connections were friends and classmates who I interacted with in person on a somewhat regular basis, today my Facebook friend network includes more than 1500 people, plus I am an administrator or contributor to at least a half dozen each different pages and groups. I also have accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest, and have tried three different online dating platforms at different times.

Facebook is by far the worst. Rarely does a day go by where Facebook is absent from my life. I connect to it constantly, even when I don’t mean to. Sometimes I just type “facebook” into my browser window without realizing it, or tap the app on my phone by default. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that I spend hours on Facebook more days than not. Some of it is useful – I get my news from Facebook and it reminds me of birthdays and upcoming events – but most of that time is a waste. While I appreciate Facebook’s convenience and how it has enabled me to stay in touch with or reconnect with friends from past chapters in my life, I often wonder how much more productive I would be – and how much better I would feel about myself – if I could quit Facebook.

I admire those without Facebook accounts – I really truly do. I suspect those people accomplish more with their day and feel more fulfilled in general. I think Facebook and the internet in general is a paradoxical wonder. Strange it seems that these platforms simultaneously connect and disconnect us from one another. Digital connectivity means that young people are spending more and more time “living” through media than being present in the real world. I think it’s sad.

Take the typical weekend night out for a single 20-something. Dinner with friends at a restaurant, followed by a trip to the bar/club. Just fifteen years ago, this would have been accomplished without much of a fuss, maybe a call or two to a friend to confirm a location and time, or to arrange a meet up with other friends later. Today, at a restaurant there is the obligatory check-in on Facebook, checking texts or likes during dinner, swiping left or right on Tinder en route to the bar, and at least a couple Snapchats posted while grabbing drinks or hitting the dance floor. Today, millennials and younger document their every move via social platforms. Post about it or it didn’t happen.

What we do and don’t post to social media paints a distorted picture of what our lives are really like. Everything on Facebook, like photos posted to Instagram, has a filter applied. The one I use most often is “happy.” I post mostly about things that make me smile and feel good. I don’t do it to try to make my life look better than anyone else’s (the not so subtle humblebrag), but I generally try to post positive things because that’s how I’d like to see myself – positive, upbeat, and generally hopeful, not whiny, complaining, or criticizing. Like everyone else I have good days and bad days, but I’m unlikely to share the negative ones on such a public forum. To me, those moments are more private and intimate, and ones I’d prefer to share with a select audience of friends and trusted souls.

My choice to share my finer moments is not a deliberate decision to overshadow others experiences or to disregard my own pain and sadness. I’m not competing, I’m just trying not to look like an a$$hole in public.

The truth is, despite all of the conveniences, I think social media is a burden. Which is why I want to quit Facebook. Unfortunately, social media has become so heavily ingrained into our society that quitting has become a great sacrifice. Not participating in social media is just not an option for many small businesses or organizations that rely on Facebook and other platforms for marketing and communication. So far the reason I haven’t managed to quit Facebook is because I use it for work and my photography business. Deactivating my account would leave me unable to post to those pages, and I don’t have an alternative solution for that.

What I do know is that Facebook causes me to sit at my computer more, which means I am less active and less engaged in my life outside of the digital world. I stare more at my computer screen than my garden and sometimes spend more time chatting with friends online than with friends in person. Chores that need to be done, such as sorting through moving boxes, mowing the lawn, making the next days meals, and cleaning, don’t get checked off my list in a timely manner. My workouts, which I depend on for my sanity and well being, get cut short and delayed because Facebook distracts me from being able to efficiently manage my time. I get headaches from staring at my screen for prolonged periods and also allow myself to get dehydrated from drinking too little water. I rarely get eight hours of sleep a night and often have trouble falling to sleep, no matter how tired, run down, and sometimes sad I feel.

Facebook is no friend of mine.

I wonder what life will be like without Facebook. Will my photography business suffer because my photographs won’t instantly pop-up on followers’ feeds? Will I miss out on important milestones in friends’ lives? Will I not get invited to parties or included in events because I cannot be invited to them with a single click? Will I never see the photos my friends take of me? My mom lives several hours away and we see each other for short periods of time only a few times a year when I go to visit her. She has never seen my house or met a single one of my friends who is active in my day to day life right now, but she has seen pictures on Facebook. I can’t text my mom photos because she doesn’t have a cell phone and the firewall on her computer at work email attachments and messages inconsistently, so Facebook is the easiest way for me to share pictures with her. In fact, the only reason my mom has Facebook is because I invited her so that I could show her photos (specifically, those taken of me but posted by others on Facebook and not shared publicly) – she never posts anything or “likes” or comments. I wonder how disconnecting from Facebook will affect my relationship with her. Will the distance feel farther without photographs for her to see?

Sometimes I long for the good old fashioned days of my childhood, when I entertained myself with balls and books and dirt instead of an internet connection. Even though I can disconnect my Facebook and turn off my computer, it will be hard to voluntarily remove myself from a world that others rely so heavily on. Just because I might choose not to use Facebook doesn’t mean that others won’t, and by removing myself from the social standard, will I, in a way, make myself obsolete? Will the peace of mind I gain from taking a break from Facebook and the computer outweigh the consequences of not posting for work and isolating my photography from the Facebook crowd? Will leaving Facebook help me feel less overwhelmed? Will my social life suffer or benefit? Will I be happier?

For a decade, my life has had a Facebook profile attached to it. My entire adult life has been documented, photographed, liked, and hashtagged. I’m not sure I want that anymore. I’m not sure I ever did, but back in 2004 I had no idea that the exclusive college networking site I was signing up for would become the monster that Facebook is today. If Facebook had been then what it is now, I might never have given it another look.

A world without Facebook seems foreign to me, in a romantic kind of way. I find myself drawn to the idea in the same way I am attracted to the old time-y rural setting of books like A Day No Pigs Would Die, The Yearling, and Copper Toed Boots, where boys go hunting and fishing in the woods and bond with animal friends. Times when everything seemed so much more simple, when there were fewer distractions and pleasure came from simple things. But like my other favorite genre of books, the dystopian novels of 1984 and A Brave New World, Facebook has created a society where everything we do is watched and recorded, where our “free” world seems strangely suffocating. On some level, when we opt to participate in Facebook we are plugging ourselves into what is essentially a soulless machine. Maybe Facebook is really just Big Brother by a different name.

I am starting to think that all of this digital technology makes the world too bright. There is beauty in the darkness that you just can’t see when you are blinded by LEDs. Much like light pollution from cities spoils our ability to observe the night sky and the stars in all of their glory, being constantly connected to Facebook means that we miss out on the beauty in the real world. The subtle things. The things that really matter, that really make a difference, that bring us joy and happiness.

They say, only in the dark can you see the light. For me, the time is near when I hope to turn technology off for a while. Not all of it, just the parts I can’t seem to manage while managing everything else, like Facebook.

I’m ready to go dark.