Reconsidering my Online Presence in 2017

A belated Happy New Year to my readers!

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. We all know that most of the time these are short-lived efforts at long-term changes. So this post isn't about a resolution. It's about concerns that have been weighing on my mind lately with respect to my online presence, which happen to coincide with the start of a new calendar year.

A little more than a week ago, I once again deactivated my personal Facebook page. (I had already deleted my long-neglected photography business page on there weeks earlier.) I don't know when or if I will reactivate it. Frankly, the constant chatter and ongoing political rancor have worn me down, and I needed to de-clutter my brain.

I'm still quite active on Twitter. I have long used Tweetdeck (and now the excellent lookalike Tweetduck) to mute annoying keywords, and I was elated to learn that Twitter finally introduced a mute feature to their official app. Most of the time, I manage to limit my tweets to photo/ art-related discussions, and occasional lighthearted banter about coffee and other innocuous topics. In a nutshell, I've taken steps to ensure that Twitter remains my "happy place."

Lately, I have been taking a thoughtful look at my online footprint and asking myself whether I need to further reduce the breadth of my activity. I don't plan to disappear by any means, but maybe I've stretched myself too thin on too many platforms. I was alarmed by a recent tweet evaluating the terms of service (TOS) provided by the hugely popular Instagram. Few of us bother to read the fine print on these services when we subscribe. If you're an avid Instagram user, as I have been for several years, you may want to take a closer look at the terms to which you have already agreed.

A lawyer has rewritten these in terms in plain English, and you may be surprised at what Instagram claims as rights to your intellectual property. Basically, they say that they can do whatever they want with your photos without any compensation (beyond using their service), or express permission from you. They also reserve the right to make further changes to their TOS without providing any notification to users, so unless you periodically review the terms you have no idea what changes may have occurred.

I don't know how you feel about signing away the use of your intellectual property for free, but I have to admit I don't feel good about it. In fact, I'm rather disgruntled at them - and perhaps a bit annoyed with myself for not reading these terms before I uploaded 1,200 photos to their service. While I hate to give up some of the connections I have there, I'm not sure I want to keep giving my photos away to any third party Instagram chooses. They have essentially positioned themselves as a photo stock agency - the key difference from traditional stock agencies being that you agree to work for them for free.

Options to address this without deleting my account include placing big, ugly watermarks across each photo. I don't really care for that idea. Another, less obnoxious choice might be to reduce image resolution to ridiculously low values (say 640x480), potentially undermining any resale value on their end. Both approaches are simply variations on poisoning the well so they'd look elsewhere for suitable stock material to sell product.

I'm still undecided on what I'll do, although I am leaning strongly towards simply deleting my account. At a minimum, I do plan to keep my beloved Twitter account, this website and my Flickr Pro account that I've had since 2008. While Flickr traffic has waned in the past few years, it's still a vibrant community filled with excellent work and useful group discussions.

What do you think? Is Instagram a good platform for sharing your work, despite the overly generous terms they lay claim upon for themselves? Is getting more "likes" of your photos worth the potential cost?