April 10, 2012

Instagram and ageing

Instagram has been bought by Facebook. All the nerds are talking about it. It’s a bad thing, because we don’t like Facebook.

It’s a shame because I’ve really enjoyed Instagram. It’s become my online equivalent of a physical photo album. I take photos of things I think are interesting. Sometimes I share them on Twitter, sometimes not. There’s a web app called Instadrop that grabs anything I post there and throws it in a Dropbox folder that instantly syncs to my laptop. OS X then changes my desktop background to a random photo from that folder every 10 minutes.

So every time I turn on my computer I see a reminder of a good memory. The faux-retro styling adds to the nostalgia. It’s the closest I’ve ever got to printing out photos and putting my favourite ones in frames on my desk, like they did in the old days.

I didn’t know I was going to set that system up when I started using Instagram. The app itself made taking photos fun, and I found a way to use them. Now I’m thinking of moving to something new, and I wonder if I’ll be as inspired to take photos. With Flickr, iPhoto and every other photo system I’ve tried I ended up not using it very much.

Friends are talking about The OpenPhoto Project, Diaspora and other open source alternatives for photo sharing and social networking. These sort of platforms usually don’t get much of a look-in because they’re unlikely ever to get the critical mass of users they need to become ubiquitous, but when things like the Instagram takeover happen they stand more of a chance. Loads of people are looking for a new start, somewhere to go that won’t shut down or get bought out in a couple of years.

I’m going to take this as an opportunity to change things around. I’ll probably leave Instagram and join the nerds in the quest for a useful, open alternative. I was going to include Instagram feeds as part of the new Little Fish website, but I think I’ll try something else instead. I was starting to get bored of the faux-retro photo style anyway (real retro photos are another thing entirely), and the new iPhone camera takes higher quality photos that don’t need retro filters to look good.

It’s also an opportunity to remove another random input stream from my life. In the last couple of days I’ve read Hope in the Age of Collapse and The Berenstain Bears and the Tyranny of Timeliness. These reminders of the relative meaninglessness of most media, along with my own impending fatherhood, have dulled my interest in having my hook permanently dipped in the internet stream. There’s so much great stuff on the internet, but very little of it is to do with what’s going on right now.

These days I’m much more interested in making stuff (music, writing, art, web projects) and enjoying life offline (travel, coffee, chopping wood, walking, listening, reading, learning). I’m less and less worried about missing out on new stuff (new gadgets, apps, social networks, bands, memes) and more excited by finding and maintaining old stuff (organs, pianos, old gadgets, piles of wood). All of which sounds suspiciously like I’m getting old.