Why I Deleted my Social Media Accounts (Internet Habit) Phase Two

(Analog Self-Portrait, 2015)

In January 2014 I deleted seven of my social media accounts.

I wrote about this little experience, and the post went on to receive more traffic than any post I’ve ever done. I also received a remarkable amount of email and messages from people all over the world who wrote in support and solidarity. It appears there are many of us who feel like the social media rabbit hole is deeper and darker than we first thought. But I also started that post by saying “Hey, if you love social then more power to you.” “Enjoy.” And I still feel this way today.

Now, while out and about in the world I slowly became known as the “guy who deleted social,” which has created some interesting moments over the past year. I’m always amazed by how seriously people take their social, and also how serious they take my departure. I’ve routinely been scoffed at while being asked “Oh ya sure, you deleted your social…how long did that last?” And when I reply, “Still deleted and not going back,” I’m met with genuine looks of horror, bewilderment and in some cases hostility. I also have a fair number of people who say something along the lines of “I’m so jealous.” There are many folks tied to social due to job requirements, and a significant percentage of these people feel like they are being ground up by the superficial treadmill of the social life. And yes, there are many people who don’t give a s$#@ what I do.

So being me I took things one step further.

In December of 2014 I decided to ONLY go online when I HAD to go online, or at least attempt to do this. No more news. No more sports. No more mindless climbing videos on YouTube. No more endless days lost to the magical powers of Will Farrell. No more shopping. Just needs. Need to reserve a book at the library. Done. Need a hotel. Done. Need a flight. Done. Need to see what’s trending on Yahoo….NOT f$#$#@$ done. BLISS. BLISS PEOPLE. BLISS. The plan was two fold. Stop going online for no reason, and the moment I felt like going online I would pick up a book instead.

So. These are the books I’ve read this year. (Yes, if I wasn’t such a d$#@ I would have linked all these.)

1. I am Pilgram, Clark
The Circle, Eggars
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Eggars
No Place to Hide, Greenwald
All the Light we Cannot See, Doerr
Dark Alliance, Webb
Kill the Messenger, Webb
The Interior Circuit, Goldman
Say Her Name, Goldman
10. The Art of Political Trouble, Goldman
In Trouble Again, O’Hanlan
Desert Memories, Dorfman
At Night we Walk in Circles, Alarcon
The Sound of Things Falling, Vasquez
Deep Down Dark, Tobar
The Tattooed Soldier, Tobar
Kings of Cool, Winslow
Savages, Winslow
Don’t Stop the Carnival, Wouk
20. Good Hunting, Devine
Hotel Florida, Vaill
Salvador, Didion (reread every few years)
The Secret Race, Coyle and Hamilton
Lasso the Wind, Egan
Death Grip, Samet
The Emerald Mile, Fedarko
Desert Solitaire, Abbey
Blink, Gladwell
The Long Way, Moitessesier
30. The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey
The Man Who Walked Through Time, Fletcher
The Cult of the Amateur, Keen
Digital Vertigo, Keen
Dubliners, Joyce
Collapse, Diamond (Reading at the time of this post.)
The Goldfinch, Tartt (Reading at the time of this post.)

Now, you might be asking yourself why I count my books. Normally I don’t. But what began to dawn on me was “Hmmm, this FEELS like a lot of books.” “I wonder how many books I’ve actually read?” People also ask me if I’ve read anything good lately, and I can never remember titles, authors, etc. so I figured I’d jot them down. My old routine was get up at 5AM or 5:30AM, get my non-morning person wife out the door in one piece and then go straight to my computer with the most potent cup of coffee the world has ever seen. Twelve hours later I would move away from the desk. Now, I get up at the same time, get the same non-morning person wife out the door, make the same heart-stopped cup of widowmaker coffee, but now instead of hitting the space bar I read. I read for however long it takes me to finish my coffee. At some point the coffee will probably kill me, but that’s okay because then I won’t have to worry about anything else, like Kodak stopping TRI-X production, but until then I know I’ve got a new routine that works. I also apply this technique at night. No more stupid s$#$ for no reason. Just read.(And I LOVE stupid s$#%)

The impact of my online diet has been profound. My mind feels like one solid block and not a hundred fragments connected to one of those vibrating hotel beds. I also feel smarter. That might sound strange, and perhaps this isn’t valid, but it sure feels that way. I’ve returned to novel length material and have distanced myself from the informational morsel. No banner ads. No facial recognition advertising. No “SEVEN ANNOYING THINGS THAT HAPPEN AT WORK” lifestyle that permeates the lunacy that is The Internet. Got a second? Hey, surf the web. Bored? Surf the web. Commercial on TV, grab your phone and surf the web. Having an important or personal conversation with a loved one? Hey, perfect time to surf the web! Etc., etc. In some odd way I feel like I’ve been whispered a secret. I walk through the world as if it’s one enormous human zoo and I’m in a bubble looking at these strange species up close and personal. The difficult part is actually spending time with those lost to the system. It’s more difficult now. Watching as they ignore life, the conversations, questions aimed their way as they look up with glazed eyes and go “What?” So, now I am trolling for the disconnected.

I don’t expect anyone to follow my quiet, little voyage. Nor do I think it’s noble, better or pioneering. What I want to share is the idea that less is, at times, certainly more, and if this experience has been so rewarding to me it could perhaps be the same for you. I didn’t even mention art, bookmaking and the guitar, three little things I’ve been deeply investing in with all my newfound mental freedom. As for art and guitar, man do I suck, but I’m okay with that. Made four new books this week as part of a new twenty-book series that will live in a box set edition. I’m greedy people. I think about what I’ve been able to accomplish and I wonder what others I admire would be able to create if they took they time they waste on social and the web and applied to to their work, or a new passion. I wonder. And I wait.

I’d be curious if anyone out there does a short test or experiments with this idea. If you do hit me up and let me know how it goes. Okay, gotta go. There are pages in need of turning.

The Social Photographer

This post was compiled via personal experience, observation and conversations with a range of other creatives. I posted yesterday and today simply to offer a differing opinion on the dominant current of the moment, a current centered around over-sharing, immediacy and the social media life.

The “Social Photographer” continued from the previous post….

The photographer I mentioned before began to haunt my thoughts. The BEST work he ever did, by far, was back when he could not see his images in the field. He would just work, work, work and then ship film, or travel back with it. There was the time waiting for the processing, the printing or proofing. His thoughts would be on the film, what he had or didn’t have. There was chance and the unknown and all of these things forced him to think about this work. Then there was the edit, the ALL POWERFUL EDIT. Sometimes he would undertake this on his own and other times he would work with editors. There was limited space in the publications he worked for so the images that made it were given thought, even though sometimes the best pictures weren’t used.

Then came digital and it’s immediate opportunities. But there was still time. He would shoot and shoot, coming back to his hotel at night to download, EDIT, and transmit a chosen FEW images. As the technology began to invade his world the timelines began to shorten. Sometimes he would shoot for minutes, transmitting from the field to save precious seconds. Suddenly, in some ways, TIME became the key element of his life. Perhaps lack of time.

And then came the mobile phone, with true immediacy, and absolutely no filter and no barrier between he and his audience, the world. The traditional outlets, like the magazines he worked for, are bottlenecks of information, operating in many ways like the calendar reads 1975. With the mobile phone and the Internet the barrier was gone. He began to shoot and share. Immediately. This new found ability was like a drug and the intoxication followed shortly thereafter with the soothing warmth of the “like.” “Wow, a lot of people like my work.” But financially things got worse. How could this be? The pipeline for “content” a word that slipped into the vernacular of the industry, was wide and growing wider. He needed to post more. Posting became a daily event, sometimes dozens and dozens of shares were needed to keep the “flow” of information going. If something wasn’t getting enough likes it was taken down and replaced with something easier, something more fashionable. Suddenly the statistics were what was driving the “content.”

He began to realize he needed to post ONLY a certain type of image, and certain times of the day or night were more beneficial than others. He loved his dog, really loved him, but knew if he posted anything of his precious companion he would lose a certain subset of his audience, watching as his Twitter following decreased forcing him to post “rebuilding” posts, or images, that would drive the count back up. There was the competition for followers with his colleagues. After all, people were watching those numbers, corporations, potential clients who would ask “What kind of social following does he have?” “Is he SCALEABLE as a photographer?” “IF we hire him, will he bring his own following?” But there is a hiccup here, a generation gap. Many of the clients asking about this stuff sounded as if they just discovered social media the week before. They are in their 50’s, or God forbid…their 60’s (although their account execs are in their 20’s and want to keep their jobs.) don’t have time for the “nonsense” themselves, but know their readership or potential customers seem to love the stuff, so the photographer they hire should have a following. “Let the photographer mess with that stuff, we just want to SELL.”

Then the photographer finds himself alone and wondering. Thinking back to the days in school when he was pure of heart. He didn’t have the skill yet, or the knowledge required to navigate the world as someone put on the Earth to tell stories, but he knew in his heart it was what he was chosen to do. Life at that time was a fog of ONLY photography. The rest of life went by like it was someone else’s story, an inconvenience because anything that stood in the way of the images wasn’t to be factored in, couldn’t be factored in. He didn’t expect anyone else to understand. This was HIS world.

And now it’s all changed. The electronic umbilical cord can’t and won’t be denied. He wakes up each morning and instead of looking for his loved one, or his dog, he reaches for his phone because the charade doesn’t sleep. Like King in Platoon said, “The Beast is out there tonight, and he’s hungry.” Take even a SINGLE day off and he risks being forgotten, trampled in the running of the digital bulls.

Well folks, I say ENOUGH . As you know, I left photography over three years ago(Now I’m back.), and from where I view things now, think 10,000 feet birdseye, I look back on the industry and can see things those mired in the trenches cannot. I not only SEE these things, I hear them on a weekly sometimes daily basis. I listen. A lot. And I watch. But most of all I wonder how people allow themselves to be sucked into all this? Yesterday it happened again. Someone contacts me and says they are going to dip their toe in the digital stream. No matter what I say they will take that fateful step. I warn of diminishing impact, of being lost in the Internet jungle, but it always bounces off. “I’m only going to do such and such for “x” amount of time.” And then, like a whisper, they are gone. Instead of reading or talking or browsing the world they find themselves sitting at a dinner party reaching for their phone to check their Facebook page.(This happened last night.) They mumble through their conversation. They seem distracted, agitated because they can’t focus on ANYTHING. Their thumb moves up and down, trained to flick at content like a nervous tick. Their vocabulary suddenly takes on things like “wow,” “amazing” and “unreal,” words now firmly planted in their brains from their social feedback, words used to deflect conversation because they weren’t really paying attention in the first place.

Someone called me the other day and asked about a certain photographer. My response was “You will never get his undivided attention.” This didn’t mean the client wasn’t going to call this photographer, it just meant their communication had to be tailored to FIT. If you think this is crazy, think again. I have to do this ALL THE TIME as I navigate the world as a Blurb faithful. It’s just part of the job now. And people, just know, I’ve dealt with almost all of these issues myself at some point in the last ten years. I was lucky. I saw these things happening to friends and colleagues and said “I gotta make changes…now.” And I did, further evidenced by my severing of all(almost) things social media.

Many of the photographers I know, if given time and peace of mind, will come up with the goods. In a perfect world I could change things, figure out a way to get this done, but the reality is, most of the time, when I even bring these things up, the response is attack. “Who is this guy?” “He’s a nobody.” “He’s a hater or a luddite.” Maybe.

I’m also a listener and a watcher. I’m a refined observer. And there is absolutely no way you are going to tell me this isn’t happening. But I’ll leave you with a question or two.

Where is this headed? What is the endgame? Can you take in more content than you are right now, right this second? Do you see a world where your mobile phone becomes MORE of a part of your life, and does this world seem like a place you want to live in? Do you see your life’s work getting more attention or less? Are real changes being made or are things just being tossed around more?

The reason I ask these things is when I ask real questions about today’s issues, it’s rare I get any real response other than bewilderment. Poverty in New Mexico, air pollution in San Francisco, NSA spying or financial world shenanigans and so often there is just NOTHING coming back at me. Everyone knows when the new iPhone is scheduled for release, but nobody can pinpoint what is actually happening with troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Now look, I waste my fair share of time. I can recite every line of “Step Brothers,” and probably will many more times before I die, but I’m starting to look around and wonder. Are we talkers and sharers or are we doers? I just bought a teen love novel by accident, on my Kindle, and I KNEW something was wrong ten pages in but I READ THE ENTIRE DAMN THING. Now I feel dirty and used. I make mistakes all the time, so not wanting to paint myself as a saint, or more worldly than I am.

Where does this leave us? Don’t know. I think there is a difference in bringing up poignant questions and being a contrarian. I’ve been accused of being a contrarian, but what I’ve found is that most of the people accusing me see the same holes in the narrative that I do, but they are trapped and pretending it’s only a flesh wound.

I tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna close my eyes and I’m gonna think of this photographer one more time. I’m going to dream “best case scenario” and I’m gonna work backwards and see if I can’t find a path worth taking.



I was just on Twitter and I looked down in the “Hey silly, these are the people you should follow” area. I rarely ever go to this little spot because I’m trying to EXPAND my digital horizon, not build a staggering mound of similar people, and it dawned on me how much THIS exact scenario is a part of the social world.

In other words, preaching to the choir.

On Twitter’s list, made special for me, was a photojournalist. I clicked on his name, and found post after post of mobile phone images. Under each image was the list of those who “liked” what the photographer posted, and there were many. There were SO MANY posts I just immediately killed the Twitter tab and tried to forget about it, because here is the reality. That photojournalist, he is capable of good work. He really is. He isn’t new, or crazy young, he’s got a track record. Now, that track record was FAR better before the advent of the mobile phone(in my opinion), and I really don’t want to engage with him in his new incarnation of “please follow and like me.” The work being liked, relentlessly, isn’t great work, but it comes with the “preaching to the choir” aspect of this charade. He could post photographs of his feet and a hundred people would tell him “great photo,” “amazing,” “incredible,” “awesome,” all the telltale vocabulary associated with social.

Ever wonder what would happen if someone said “Sorry man, this one just isn’t good enough.” Blasphemy!! Ban them! Burn them! How dare you invade the flowery world of the social following with ANYTHING deemed remotely negative. How often does someone in the choir yell “This song sucks…… we either sing FREEBIRD or I’m WALKING!” How often? NEVER.

I’m WAITING for these photographers to realize this little game has blowback. When someone shares their work at an unsustainable rate it actually diminishes the value and the power of what they are doing. Consider the micro-seconds of time many of these folks offering up the “likes” are spending with the imagery. Here today, gone tomorrow. In short, we are OVERSHARING at a deadly rate. Well, some of us are.

I’ve always felt that there have only ever been a few truly elite photographers in the world. This was true fifty years ago and it’s true now. The truly elite in my mind are NOT sharing every moment of every day and begging for attention. The elite are making work; real, honest, deep work and they are waiting like a visual virus. They are waiting for that work to be complete. They are editing, they are sequencing and they are packaging. They are waiting for the moment when humanity, NOT just the choir, is ready is receive and then they make their move. When they move, people stop what they are doing and they PAY ATTENTION. Real, undivided attention.

Certain photographers transcend photography. I have a game I play with my mother(75-years_old), who has always been supportive of photography but doesn’t have any interest in actually following photography, outside of the images I make of her grandchildren. I ask her if she has ever heard of certain photographers. Anyone who knows this site knows about my Salgado man crush, and Salgado is someone who transcends the choir. He, and his work, have become part of the vernacular of our culture. If he was buzzing around my ear EVERYDAY with post and after post after post I would toss him aside like I do the rest simply because there is NO WAY I have the time to actually consume that level of interaction. What I like about Salgado is that he pops up on my radar about once every ten years, and when he does I know I need to pay attention. His methods, his projects and his legacy are unrivaled in documentary photography, and just so you know, I don’t like everything he does. I think certain projects are better than others, but I pay attention, real attention, to all of them.

The sad thing is I believe there could be more Salgado’s out there, but too many people who have the talent have become sidetracked by staring at screens all day long and feeding their empty calorie lifestyle of the social following. At some point it’s going to dawn on these folks that change is in the air. Artists today have more control and more options than ever before, but it takes nerve, focus and a fearlessness to blaze a new trail. Artists have a permission slip, something I’ve harped on endlessly. A permission slip to be eccentric, to take chances and to be entirely original, but in doing so run the risk of NOT being “Mr/Mrs Popular.” Heck, sometimes I post things on Twitter to see how many people I can LOSE in one, 140-character blast. I do, and it’s a game I highly recommend because the MOMENT you begin to shape an artificial version of yourself in an attempt to gain more anything THE GAME IS OFFICIALLY OVER.

I hold out hope. When I see the name of the photographer I mentioned above, the one I noticed on Twitter, I see images of his in my mind. I see the OLD images, the ones that made him who he is before this charade began. This is true of many of these folks. I see their images because they were GREAT images. Signature, historical images but there were ONE or TWO from an entire story. THIS, for me is what photography is truly about. Great moments don’t happen everyday no matter how many filters you apply.


Social Media Update


I was sitting in my office attempting to arrange too many shoots in too little time and looked up at the dashboard on my blog. In the middle, just slightly to the right, was the “top searches” section and they read as follows.

1. Fuji 670 (Please people I wrote this years ago and it’s the only equipment review I can remember doing and it’s still NUMBER ONE. So depressing but I know it’s probably not going to change.)
2- Smogranch (Makes sense.)
3- Deleting social media account(Popular as of late.)
4- What if you don’t have a social media account (Sounds like a panicky person perhaps.)

Yep, there they are, in that order. It’s so sad to me that “photography” or “documentary” or something of meaty order wasn’t on tap, but no, denied once again. It did trigger something VERY interesting however. It made me think about social media for the first time since I deleted my accounts. Why? Because I had already completely forgotten about them.

People keep asking me, “Do you miss them?” Are you frickin kidding me? Not only do I not miss them, I am LOVING the free emotional space no longer tied up with hmm….let’s see…relentless self-promotion, cats, police brutality claims, surely more Olympic trivia and than anyone can possibly consume, celebrity news and countless other valueless tidbits we love to throw around in record fashion.

What valueless drivel have I wasted my time on by NOT having social media? Well, I finally read the book about Buddhism I’d been trying to get to forever. Finished it, as well as many other books I’d been meaning to get to, and I’ve also spent the time writing 15,000 words of the book about my father. I’ve also created a gaggle of new “art” pieces, completely reorganized my office and have…wait for it…wait for it….taken up photography once again. New equipment, new shoots, new plans and new books(arty, edition of one) in the works including one that REALLY has my juices flowing.

And you know what else I’ve done? I’ve fielded a nonstop flow of “I read your social media post and I was so happy for you. I’d love to do it but I’m not quite there,” encounters, which I actually enjoy. First, I’m always amazed when someone reads my blog. Second, I’m glad a lot of other people are at least contemplating this avenue because I think they would have much more peaceful and centered lives without the constant drumbeat of nonsense.

And yes, there are plenty of people I have not corresponded with since that day, and perhaps never will again, but I’m totally okay with this. It appears I still know A LOT of people and can’t keep up with those in human form let alone those in cyber form.

My advice, just do it already. We as a species have gone down this hopeless rabbit hole, and the benefit is NOT outweighing what it has done to us as communicators. I met with a friend recently, someone I was close with at one point in time, and he could not have a conversation without referring to what was happening on social media. I kept having to say “I’m not on it,” which was met with a strange stare and then he would go right back to asking if I had seen such and such on Facebook. And you want to know what else? His work has slipped. And he’s no longer as interesting as he once was. Nor is he a good conversation. Not to mention he can’t finish a thought or sentence. Sadly, he’s not the only one I’ve had this experience with.

And finally, what has come from this departure is a return to letter writing. I’ve always written letters not only because I love doing so, but also because I love RECEIVING letters. My mind feels far less cluttered than it did a few short months ago, which for me is flat out working. I still find it very difficult to quiet my mind, still can’t really meditate and still have too many things going on at one particular time, but I think I’m moving in the right direction. As a friend once said in referring to photography, “You need to find the clarity within the clutter.” I couldn’t agree more.

Over my Shoulder

After I was asked to write about why I deleted my Facebook account, and after doing so, I figured there would be both positive and negative responses. I received plenty of texts, emails and a few calls, some expressing anger, others support and a few accusing me of deleting my accounts for the publicity.

Most of the time when I share opinions this is what happens, and this is what I like about sharing my opinion. And remember peeps, if you are on social, have a burgeoning community or just love it, then like I said before….power on. These issues and feelings are my own.

First of all, thanks to Michael for sharing a link to another article that makes me feel like I’m not alone or off base here. Simon Sinek on Salon. I’ve seen a few articles really bashing the Gen Y folks which I don’t think is fair. This article does a good job of pointing things out without slamming anyone too hard.

It has been less than a week since my departure and I wanted to follow up by saying it feels great. I’m pleased to find the idea of social quickly slipping from my conscious mind. I have changed other aspects of my life as well, and these changes have aided my new direction. I contacted a friend, someone I find intriguing, mentioned I had, for the first time in my life, compiled ten goals for 2014. He said “So did I, want to meet and discuss them?” So we did.

Three hours of one-on-one, undivided attention in a tea room north of Santa Fe. When we were finished I said, “I honestly can’t remember the last time I did something like this.” No phones, cameras, computers or distractions of any kind. No recording, no immediate sharing. Complete and total isolation and the silence that accompanies three-foot thick walls. It also helped we had a BRICK of the most incredible Chinese tea that required a hammer to break into pieces small enough to steep. It also smelled a bit like tobacco and was loaded with caffeine, so the time went quickly with my fingers drumming nicely on the antique wooden table. We also burned pinon.

This was the first time in my adult life I shared direction and desire with another human being who is NOT my wife. The only time. I’m sitting here now wondering how on Earth I managed to avoid doing this. He listened to me, I to him, and then the dialogue began. Eye contact, no rapid-fire conversation where each participant works from a mental drop down menu of bullet points they are aiming to get off their chest. Nope. I can’t do that anymore.

Perhaps I should say I won’t do that anymore.

This was simply adult, focused conversation, and to risk sounding “all gooey and mystical” it was wildly rewarding. We hit short-term concepts, long-term and each had several that overlapped one other. We also saw things the other did not, offering subsequent ideas or plans. Notes were taken. Eyes glazed over as brains attempted to wrap their fibers around possibility, reality or fantasy.

I know what you are thinking….“He just turned 45.” MIDLIFE CRISIS. You might just be right, but if this is a crisis, I think I like it.

There has been another side effect of my social media betrayal. An unnecessary filter has been removed from my life. I feel closer to the surface of things. My content intake just dropped dramatically. If you havent’ read “The Shallows” then you might not know precisely what I’m talking about, but it’s worth investigation in my humble opinion.

My brain just went from a fast moving, shallow stream to a river appearing mostly calm on the surface but still marked with those boils warning of hidden danger just below. Maybe next I’ll be a Lake Michigan or perhaps….The Dead Sea?

Finally, I realized why deleting and moving on was so damn easy. I’m not cool, hip, popular or providing anything trendy or anything deemed critical for people to live their lives. There is NO NEED to share the vast majority of what happens in my life. You can only cry “Wolf!” so many times.

I’m just a guy with more time on his hands.

And finally, I finally came to grips with something I’d been thinking about and discussing with a chosen few for over a year. I boiled down those who I feel are elite in the fields I follow and realized that many of the people I find truly original aren’t on social media. They never have been and never will be. They are instead making work. Period, end of story. A photographer I consider to be one of the best ever in his chosen field recently had another museum show and when asked about his online presence said he didn’t have a site and had ever been on social media. I wasn’t there, but was told that he was also asked about email and he said something along the lines of “I think I have an email address but don’t remember what it is.” He also has two new books coming out. What I’m saying is, not only is he doing well, he is thriving.

I also began to look at those with the largest followings, and those who make the most noise, and frankly what I found were really good sales and PR people who knew the charade of tapping the generic masses of consumers who had little to no direction of their own. These are the creative self-help masses who are willing to be pulled in new and distracting directions on a weekly basis because they are high on gear, technology and technique, things FAR easier to acquire than originality.

Also, several people found out I did this goal thingy and began quizzing me on WHAT my goals actually were. I won’t share them all, but the first was to just get healthy. As you know I have Lyme Disease, a tricky beast almost completely ignored and denied by the American medical community. I need to stay on it to say the least. Two of my goals are already complete, one of which was to delete my social media accounts, and another that has to do with some redesign. Other goals were more lasting and dealt with things like “thinking about other people more than I think about myself.” Life goals I guess you could say. In reality, more tricky stuff.

PS: I’ve posted this image before, but I’m lazy and it was there.