You are what you share – onlinePublished 11:49am Thursday, January 17, 2013
The Internet world was in an uproar after the mid-December announcement that Instagram, a photo sharing service similar to Twitter (except exclusively for photos), would be using posted photos in advertising without paying its users for content rights.
I saw multiple updates on Facebook (ironic, considering Facebook is Instagram’s parent company) posting links to news articles on the matter with comments such as, “Guess I’m deleting my Instagram account soon! They aren’t going to get the chance to use or sell my photos!”
Instagram later recanted their proposed changes, and the company seems to be scrambling to rewrite its terms and conditions in the wake of losing almost half of its existing users after the announcement – diving from 16.35 million daily active users to 7.41 million, according to the statistics tool AppStats.
Here’s the thing, though. People are fooling themselves if they think anything posted to the World Wide Web is private.
Our connection to the global community these days is instant. By its own nature, anything posted is intended to be seen by others – whether your profile is public or private. That’s the definition of social media – to be “social.”
So, say, you post a not-so-flattering photo of yourself on Instagram. Friend 1 takes a screen shot of said photo and texts it to Friends 2, 3 and 4. Those friends show their friends, and maybe one of them uploads the photo to create a meme (an image with words superimposed on it, usually posted for comedic effect).
And so the cycle continues, and that photo you thought would only be seen by a few people has now been seen by scores of people – maybe hundreds or thousands, if you’re unlucky.
People in my generation learned early on what blowback you can receive from posting something outrageous on Facebook – nudity, excessive drinking or illegal activities among them – and how that content can exist long after a user has grown up, potentially cutting off someone from job opportunities because of past actions.
That’s why my stance has always been not to post anything online that I wouldn’t show my mother or grandmother (who are both my friends on Facebook, I might add).
Another thing I have noticed about Instagram photos is that they typically are of everyday things – a cup of coffee, a home-cooked meal or a line from a book. Nothing groundbreaking or unique in the least.
The average Instagram users are again fooling themselves to think their amateur photography would be so valuable to the company that it might be featured in an advertisement.
The people who were understandably upset were business owners and professional photographers who use Instagram to connect with new customers. But again, copyrights aren’t exactly sacred on the Internet, and it would be very hard to prevent people from acquiring your content if it has been posted to that kind of site.
My advice is to know what you’re getting into before signing up for any social media site, and consider the consequences if something you post is shared with people with whom you haven’t intended your content to be seen.
As Charles Leadbeater said, “You are what you share.”
Spears is general manager and managing editor of The Outlook.