Sharing photos and videos: Do you care about signal to noise?

Marc Flores
 from San Francisco, CA
Published: June 30, 2013

I love all my friends, I really do, but when I open up Instagram or Vine and I see a photo of a new pair of shoes on a dirty ground, or a video of someone walking through a boring street, I start to ask myself, "What's the point?" Maybe some people share because they feel compelled to, like, "Oh, I haven't put anything on Vine for a while. Maybe I should share something. Anything." Or maybe they're lonely, or maybe they really just don't care. You know the type: they tweet, Instagram and Vine all day but never look at anyone else's stuff or interact with their friends.

There is so much garbage on Instagram and Vine. You love your babies, your cats, your feet on the beach and your snacks and hikes, but does all of it need to be seen by the world? Probably not. I'm going to catch a lot of heat for this, but the signal to noise ratio on visual social networks skews way too much on the noise side. I'm guilty of it sometimes, but there's also a small chance that I'm looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps many folks use Instagram and Vine purely as a means of communication, and not necessarily for art. If that's the case, I'm really glad I know what you're having for breakfast every single day. 

It's hard to open up Instagram or Facebook and see one interesting thing for every 50 boring, lifeless, pointless posts and pictures that I see. I don't have too many problems with if you post sporadically, and whenever you do, it might be boring to me. That's fine. But I've unfollowed a lot of people from these social networks, or decided not to follow at all, because their feeds include 25 manicure photos within the span of three hours. That's probably not very good for your nails, ladies. Just sayin'. 

I'm not saying that if you have nothing interesting to post, don't post at all. I'm just asking for a little restraint or discretion. Because our smartphones and tablets have made it so easy to post anything and everything from everywhere, it doesn't mean that we should. I don't want to speak for all your friends when I say this, but I'm pretty sure we'd all appreciate it if there were fewer cat and baby, or cats with babies, photos on Instagram -- if there were fewer Vine videos of that dark, hazy and fuzzy concert you're at that we can barely hear, anyway.

Since I'm the one whining about putting too much junk in the ether with our smartphones, I'll be the first one to admit that I'm guilty of it, too. Of course, I do try to limit the rubbish I put online. If I end up putting up a photo of a drink or something, I try to make it look like art, at the very least (e.g. maybe placing a candle behind a colorful cocktail, or doing a macro shot to make people wonder how I took a photo). And I get the whole documentation thing, too: I love taking photos of food and drinks and sunsets when I'm traveling or on vacation. I love going back in my Instagram feed and Facebook posts (although I hardly use Facebook for that stuff) and reminiscing about what I was doing two or three years ago (I jumped on the Instagram bandwagon in the fall of 2010 when it launched -- October, I believe). 

Let's all help do our part in making social networks a cleaner, nicer place. And with that, I'm going to plug my Instagram account right here if you want to follow me. Don't worry, I don't even own a cat.

Photo courtesy of Marc Flores