Let me preface this by saying I love social media. But I also love bacon. Like bacon, constant consumption of social media is not good for the heart, mind, or soul. Here’s to keeping your social diet a healthy one.
turn off mobile notifications
You’re addicted and you know it. With the all-knowing iPhone we’ve become conditioned to crave digital interaction. We are social beings after all. And while the numbers and rising stats are intoxicating, insta-likes and retweets are a poor representation of where your content fits in with the world. So turn off the push-notifications from social media. From Instagram, from twitter, from facebook, wordpress, etc. Those likes aren’t going anywhere, and monitoring them won’t make them go up any faster. Save that phone buzz excitement for a text from a friend or your mom or that aloof and mysterious bartender you gave your number to a week ago.
take a break from social media one day a week
Yes, the whole day. Step back from the sharing, the liking, the being in everyone else’s business. Take a sabbatical from reading through the comments sections of politicians’ facebook pages where you already know you won’t find anything good. You don’t need to scroll through so-and-so’s album of “sunday funday at the lake ;D”. You can do that tomorrow. For one day, give your full attention to your family, your significant other, your friends, your pets, and yourself. For one day, be fully immersed in living, in existing in the world rather than on a screen.
don’t stand on the chair
You’re tempted to get that perfect, aerial shot from above of the magnificent spread before you. You’ve come to terms with how ridiculous you look. That’s great. But unless you’re on a picnic bench outside, or you’ve explicitly asked the restaurant staff if it’s alright to stand on the furniture that other people have to sit on, that the restaurant paid for and has to maintain, just don’t. Take a shot from standing on the floor. More importantly, the aerial shot has been done. Get creative and find a different way to capture the moment. Try a minimalist approach with just one dish. Make it more than a picture, make it art.
the 30 second-1 flash rule
For the love of Yaweh, don’t let your friend’s food get cold. After you’ve asked your tablemates if you can photograph their food (because, manners) you have 30 seconds to take all the photographs you can. You will be disappointed with your loot the first few times, but you will become a more skilled photographer, and your meal partners will thank you for it. If you’re in a dark restaurant I strongly advise not even bothering with pictures because A) even with a flash they won’t turn out and B) you don’t want to be that person. But if you just absolutement have to take a picture, you get one flash. That’s it. It’s presumptuous and selfish to infringe on the dining experience of others. For the best quality photos, stop by earlier, or talk to the management about a photoshoot. You never know, see what happens.
save filtering and posting for later
So you’ve used your 30 seconds to take as many pictures as possible. Now put your phone away (see next section). Who cares if it’s a #latergram. Who’s gonna know anyways, right? Find that perfect filter, the perfect exposure, crop, rotation, and blur after. Whether at a restaurant or an event, you’re only there for a limited time, that photo will be on your phone when you get home. So while you’re there, be there.
keep your phone off the table
The servers at a local restaurant a while back had an employees game of bingo they liked to play. And there was one square you could cross off if everyone at the table of 4+ had their phone on the table. Again, you don’t want to be that table. Besides, having it right in front of your face, you’ll want to edit the photo. You’ll want to post it. And you’ll want to see if everyone liked it. See above.
I’m currently working on this one myself. You put it away at first, but it somehow finds its way out again because you just have to show someone that picture or video your cousin, roommate, neighbor posted earlier, or that crazy sexist article from that openly anti-feminist site (which you really shouldn’t be surprised about anyways). Et voilà. Phone on the table. But don’t do it. Don’t even pull it out. Find better words to explain the picture, summarize the article (or just forget about it), and engage with the people around you rather than shoving more media in their face.
take mockery in stride
Taking into account the rest of this guide, you should be able to keep mockery to a minimum, but along the way, someone is going to make fun of you for live-tweeting an event, or taking that overhead shot of your food. I mean, it does look kind of silly. But you know what it’s for, and you know why you’re doing it. You know there’s a demand, and you have the supply. It’s just good business. Don’t internalize it and let it eat at your self esteem, but don’t retort with snark. When the server walks by and in his girliest voice says “Instahgrahhhhmmm!” find a witty reply like, “Hey man, this foodporn on my digital profile will distract the NSA from my illegal internet gambling.” Ya know, or just gracefully brush it off.
create content you’re proud of
You’ve followed the guides, posting regularly and frequently, but just aren’t seeing the stats to reflect it? Evaluate your content. Whether promoting your personal site or just developing a following on a singular platform, people really do respond to quality content. Social media is only as useful as the content it promotes. If it’s not good, don’t force it, move on. Your next idea, your next photo, your next post will be better.
be your own brand
Aristotle had Plato. Andy Warhol had soup. Artists have their muses. It’s only smart to follow social media accounts that inspire you. But be careful with how that inspiration affects your own actions. A strong following is born from true innovation, from individuality. Unless it’s part of your brand or you’re doing something über creative, stay away from words like “darling,”, “much,” “tasty,” “effortlessly chic,” “delicious,” “extremely,” or “gem.” They’re all good words, but used up at this point. Revisit them in 15 years. For now, take the extra minute to find the word you actually want and create your own voice.
ceci n’est pas une pipe
Magritte had it right, and his message is ever more prescient in our age of digital distance. Social media is used for sharing moments with people who aren’t there, but it’s also undeniably used as a tool for promotion. With that in mind, as in all things, we must remember that the subject of our images have meaning and value in themselves. Whether it’s a dish at a restaurant, a stunning landscape, or a candid moment between friends, we must remember that it is the subject, not the image or the digital engagement it may generate, that is real.