This is a pretty interesting video from Manny Ortiz talking about an observation that I think a lot of people have come to notice over the last couple of years. And that’s that the photography community, particularly online, can be extremely toxic. To the point where I’ve actually seen people give up photography completely due to the harrassment they’ve received online.
Is it the same in the real world? outside of Facebook and other social media? That’s what Manny believes, but I’m not entirely sure. It definitely exists more online, but it’s still definitely out there in the real world, too.
I’ve just spent the last few days at The Photography Show here in the UK. I’ve been surrounded by some of the industry’s absolute best photographers, retouchers and others in the industry who are genuinely excited about the work they create, the work that others create, and building each other up. I’m also in a couple of Facebook groups with these same people, and they are wonderful places to be online to talk about work and photography topics. There were also many amateurs and hobbyists at the show with whom I chatted who were equally passionate about the sense of community within the world of photography.
The sense of positivity was overwhelming.
But there are many online groups on Facebook and other social media, not to mention the YouTube comments section, where the atmosphere is the opposite. Completely and absolutely toxic. People who only seem to exist to put other people down to make themselves feel better. And I did come across a handful of people (varying from names you know to complete beginners) showing this same attitude in the real world during the show, too.
Manny describes one particular interaction that I didn’t experience the show this year, but I have in the past. People I’ve met online having terrible attitudes, and then being nice to my face once we meet in person. But I’ve also experienced assholes on social media who were still assholes in person, too. Although the latter definitely seems to be the minority.
There is definitely a prevalence of such attitudes online that often doesn’t translate to the real world. So many armchair experts who think they’re better than everybody else. That their opinion is the only one that matters – an opinion they often spout off as fact with nothing to back it up, and then get even worse attitudes when you ask them to prove their claims. So many keyboard warriors.
But why? Why is it that people can’t seem to just get along online? Why can’t we all work to build each other up? I’m constantly looking on social media for inspiring and amazing (and positive!) photographers and other creatives to feature here on DIYP. Why do people often feel the need to belittle others to try to make themselves feel better? And what can we do about it?
Well, for a start, we can choose to not be a dick on social media. And if others are doing it to you, just utilise the block button. I’ve found that Facebook becomes a much more pleasant and positive place once you start to add a few hundred people to your block list and no longer have to see their nonsense and bad attitudes. Most of the time, I don’t even remember their name 5 minutes after I block them. I’m up to 948 people on my list right now (I might have a little party when I hit 1K), that have been added over the last couple of years, and I’ve left several groups completely as the attitude has not only been accepted but started to become the norm there.
In the photography community’s defence, though, I don’t think this is a photography-specific thing. It’s just an online thing. I see the same thing in 3D printing, electronics, engineering and many other online communities, too. It just seems to be something about social media that brings out the worst in people.
Manny thinks that it’s mostly down to insecurity and jealousy. And I think he might be right. Most of us don’t live with or regularly hang out with people who even understand half of what we’re talking about. And as human beings, we need that validation. So, a lot like to assert their dominance online to prove to people how much they know. Personally, I always thought the final result did that – but many of those with such attitudes rarely post images.
I think part of the problem, too, is that text is an imperfect medium. It can be difficult to get across when you’re making a joke or being a little sarcastic in a quick Facebook comment. Then somebody takes it the wrong way and suddenly you’re mortal enemies for the rest of your days. Well, unless you meet in person.
Miscommunication happens online all the time. Most of the things that people say can be taken in multiple ways. Don’t always assume they mean the worst one. And when their meaning is obvious? Well, you know what to do. Don’t be a dick, and embrace the block button.
What do you think? Do you see more toxicity in online photography communities? Do you see more in the real world? What do you do to try and minimise your own contribution to it? And how do you deal with it when you see others doing it?