Twitter is for sharing standout moments. And not just with text. It lets you tell stories — as they happen — with photos. Our new photo features make sharing your pics a snap.”
The email goes on to point out that “you can share multiple photos at the same time.” You can also “tag your friends” and you can change the mood with a “filter from our library” to make a “pretty picture prettier.”
Of course, we know that this isn’t about sharing moments, including friends or making things prettier. This is about competition. We see what you did there Twitter, “tag” and “filter” being Pig Latin quality code words for Facebook and Instagram. You thought we wouldn’t notice? Um-day.
We also understand why you did it. You had to. Facebook wants us to engage it in the rapid-fire, almost meaningless sort of updating that has long been your domain. Twitter, while your actions may be justified, they are just one more step toward the mediocre middle ground formerly known as “below average.” At a point where myriad technological advances are poised to bring us the best of everything, we are being led like sheep to the place where everything is adequate and we aren’t supposed to care. Remember:
When Everything does Everything Nothing Will Be Special
As I look at the 31 words in that opening statement from Twitter, three things make me sad.
One – Twitter lets me tell stories. I tell stories here, in 800 – 1,000 words and I always include at least one photo. Twitter is suggesting that I can add an extra photo or two and tell those same stories with 140 characters. I guess I could:
“Dan opened his inbox on Friday and was saddened by what he read”
There, there’s today’s story Twitter style, you can go now.
I could also tell this story on Facebook, using as many words as I like, but my friends might not ever see it. Facebook controls which posts my friends see. Wordy posts won’t get picked. No, if I want you to read my story on Facebook, I need to have some photos, keep it short, ask the right kind of questions , litter it with Emoticons, post it on a Thursday and include a contest. If you don’t believe me, read the enormously long article (834 words) on Fast Company’s website. So, if I try to tell this story on Facebook, the algorithm that controls sharing will likely only show it to 5% of my friends.
Two – I can share photos on Twitter now. Actually, I could share them there before, but when something is marketed as being new, you aren’t supposed to talk about how it’s really old. I can share photos on Facebook too, I have been able to since I joined Facebook. I can also share photos on Flickr. The photo to the right is one that I shared on both Flickr and Facebook. In fact, I downloaded it from Facebook to include here and to make point number two.
The .jpg file I downloaded from Facebook is 960 x 720 pixels. The original .jpg file, the one on Flickr, is 4,896 x 3,672 pixels. So, when you store your photos on Facebook, you reduce their image quality by a factor of 5. Sure, it looks fine on every device from which you can view Facebook, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a backup of your photos. And the people who upload a ton of photos to Facebook to make room on their camera’s memory card, what’s the word for that? Oh yeah, um-day.
Three – This really has nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter, but both services are focused (no pun intended) on capturing and sharing photos taken with your phone. The iPhone, according to Flickr, is now the most popular camera…sigh. That makes me sad because I know how much better photos can be when a quality camera is used, a camera with optical zoom and controls for aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance. In the hands of someone who knows how to manipulate all those settings, pictures become photographs without filters. I love my iPhone and I have almost 4,000 photos on it, including the Tulip to the right. Compare it to this one taken with a Canon EOS Rebel by a blogger that shares a beautiful flower photo every single day.
I’ve been an agent of change throughout my career. However, I also respect best-of-breed solutions. The original problem was that most people couldn’t afford best-of-breed options – BUT TECHNOLOGY SOLVED THAT PROBLEM! A quality point and shoot camera can be had for under $200 and will slip into your (other) pocket and last 5 years. Flickr will give you 1 Terabyte of storage for free! We could all take much better pictures and store them and share them in all their amazing quality for $40 a year, but convenience and “free” will drive us to Facebook and our iPhone. Eventually, companies will stop making point and shoot cameras and only serious photographers will have options to control the creation of a photograph. The rest of us will apply a post-production filter written by someone who understands math better than photography. Welcome to below average.