Why I have not posted many photos or videos recently: exploitation?

When I started blogging, I did so with the idea that I should probably include a relevant photo or video with each blog post. I never really adhered to that idea, but it was put into my head because I had read that readers really like photos. And indeed, I personally like to see relevant and original photos accompanying other people’s blog posts. (I do get annoyed by photos that are stock photos, or sensationalist irrelevant photos (of celebrities or such) that seem designed to draw traffic.)

I have not taken many photos or videos recently. Why? I am faced with a kind of moral dilemma I have not quite resolved.

Being present or distracted?

A while ago, a friend of mine (who is into photography) and I were discussing the nature of social media, and said he once had a blog on which he had put up cool photos (in fact, I remembered reading it years ago and enjoying his photos). But he observed that the desire to capture and post cool photos led to the phenomenon of no longer being fully present in his life experiences. And he didn’t like that. He would be in a restaurant or in nature and focus on getting a good photo rather than on enjoying the food or the view.

Social gamesmanship?

Even worse, he would think about how people reading his blog might praise his photos.

I suppose that all of us who deliberately choose have a public presence, through music, writing, or other means, sometimes face the question of why we do what we do. Friedrich Nietzsche famously said:

Poets treat their experiences shamelessly; they exploit them.

We all know that we “exploit” our experiences; we learn from them, we share them. There is nothing wrong with that, and in fact, it is a virtue to share our experiences.

But what if we deliberately have or report an experience just to show off? I don’t like that. I think I do this rarely, but the availability of technology seems to make it much easier to disrupt our “natural” lives, in which we simply have experiences, rather than deliberately capture them at the very moment in high fidelity (through cameras or smartphones or the like).

Go by feel

I can’t codify when I feel “comfortable” about taking a photo or not, but I’ve been going by feel and defaulting to not taking a photo if I have the slightest twinge of uncertainty.

Overall, I think the more I am an unseen observer, the more likely I am to feel OK about taking a photo. The more I am a participant (as in small social gatherings), the less I want to break the flow of my experience and possibly violate the spirit of the moment. So I just don’t take photos any more when going out to eat with other people, for example.


Recently I tried to put my finger on why I feel weird about Pinterest. I think I only realized today, while thinking about photography, that Pinterest represents in its purest form what I want to avoid. Maybe I will change my mind, but for now, I still have not put anything up on Pinterest, nor do I have an interest in doing so.


I’m not sure what the repercussions are, for my blog, of my relative reluctance to take a lot more photos and videos that I could. I suppose I have implicitly effected a compromise between the quality of my personal life and the entertainment value of my blog.

Do you think there is anything to my rambling thoughts? What are your own personal rules or intuitions about when it is appropriate and enjoyable to take photos and upload them to share a story?

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