Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Sep 02 2022


I’m seeing more people these days, particularly photographers and writers, eschewing the chaos of mainstream social media and returning to the quiet world of personal blogs and websites. Perhaps they feel, like many of us, that the algorithms pushing conflict, sensationalism and drama over meaning, empathy and subtlety have made their efforts inconsequential in the face of the “influencers” and “creatives” who crave and cultivate the former over the latter. It’s simply a battle that cannot be won, and not even worth engaging.

My theory is that with ever-growing access to social media as well as ever-growing dependence on it driven by recent events such as the pandemic and general paranoia, our online tribes have simply gotten too large; we’ve opened our doors to nearly everyone, and there’s a reason tribes topped out at a certain number; beyond that they just became mobs (This is one reason I feel that VR-based engagement, limited to more human-scale interaction, is inherently superior to the mass-text-based chaos that dominates FB and Twitter, but that’s another article). As it stands now, greed-fueled social media corporations are throwing these mobs at each other and calling it “engagement”, raking in the resulting profits. I can see the attraction of returning to the previous paradigm, disposing of the myth of instant, real-time internet fame and focusing only on one’s relatively small group of peers. It feels like a return to sanity.

However, years of those dopamine-fueled hits have left their mark, it would seem, as those artists who are seeking to lessen their dependence on the Likes of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram are leaving a door open from one MO to the other in the form of newsletter mailing lists like Substack, Buttondown, Memberful and TinyLetter. The idea is to utilize the following one has cultivated on social media by posting links to one’s mailing list, gathering subscribers, and then going on from there. Readers will be informed of upcoming projects, articles, etc. via that antiquated form of communication we Gen-Xers call email, and then proceed to the website in question to peruse whatever it is. It’s all rather quaintly endearing, like letters arriving in the post.

I am, as usual, late to the game, only having recently followed a few interesting photographers/writers in this fashion lately, including Craig Mod, Sean Lotman and Andy Adams (Craig described his views on newsletters quite succinctly here in 2019(!).

So far I’ve only come across these newsletters on social media, so the reliance is still there, but I assume the goal of this trend is to lessen such dependence and time spent on social media where one is simply not in control of anything. The cost of this is, on the surface, less interaction with the authors in question, but that would seem to be a fallacy in that what little actual interaction occurs on social media tends to be toxic and ill-informed. In one striking example, I signed up for Heather Cox Richardson’s political analysis mailing list, and continue to enjoy her missives. But on her Facebook page, when I left a comment objecting to her use of “self-ruled island” to describe Taiwan, I was flamed and eventually banned from the page. The same (or worse) would most likely have happened on Twitter.

Not having cultivated a large group of followers in any particular space, I can only envy those gentle, enterprising souls who have managed to do so. It’s my own damn fault as I can often be rather blunt in expressing my opinions, and I am bad at hiding my feelings, so it’s kind of WYSIWYG. So, thanks to both of my readers who have stuck with me across the decades (and now that I think about it, “both” might be on the optimistic side).

Nonetheless, with the trend of photographers abandoning Flickr for Instagram and then realizing that Instagram isn’t for photography, I’ve been looking into making a website just for displaying my photography in a fashion I can somewhat control (which ironically is the very reason I made this site back in 2001, before this damn blog took it over). I could use WordPress to add a photography page to this site (right now it points to my IG), but the WP website interface is rather daunting, so I’ve been looking at paid services like Squarespace as well as free services such as Google Sites, both of which would seem to be capable of helping me make a simple photography site with varying degrees of classiness. Squarespace can serve up a suave site, but it’s pricey, and I’ve been experimenting with test sites both there and on Google Sites to see what I can make.

Would making an actual newsletter be pointless? Would anyone want to get actual email notifications from me about whatever I’m blathering on about lately? I doubt it. But I’ll at least be sure to let you know when I get my photography site up and running. Both of you, even.

posted by Poagao at 12:04 pm