Getting with the pro ‘grammers: Photo sharing in a social world

Social media, at its core, is about sharing information and ideas. And if the billions of individuals who use social media on a regular basis provide any insight, it’s safe to say the modern person likes to share — a lot.

Take some of these common platforms for example. On a typical day, you can expect the following level of engagement:

A New Kind of Social Mobilization

Humans are wired to socialize, so it should come to no one’s surprise that social networks have the reach and impact that we see today. In addition to that social ambition, an ever-increasing number of us have an incredibly powerful social tool in our pockets in the form of a cell phone. More than 9 in 10 American adults have cell phones. Smartphones, which include internet connectivity and mobile applications as standard features, are one of the most common ways we choose to socialize. And one of the most important features of the smartphone that makes social sharing so relevant is the camera.

Cameras are behind a substantial amount of shared content. In 2013, Facebook cited 350 million as the number of photos uploaded to its platform each day. In just a few brief years, the smartphone has both supplied millions with digital cameras and enabled individuals to share those photos with ease.

Photo sharing is a key element of the most successful social networks. Facebook’s earliest form was essentially a photo directory, and while it has expanded in scope since then, photos are still among the primary types of content on the network.

In 2012, Facebook acquired the photo sharing service Instagram. Unlike other networks, Instagram initially focused solely on photography. Within the app, users would upload single photos. Each user could follow other accounts, and those photos would show up in a chronological feed. In just two years, this simple concept based on sharing photos turned Instagram into a billion dollar company.

On popular photo sharing sites, it’s not uncommon to see users following a wide array of accounts that fall into disparate categories. In the same feed, users can see National Geographic’s award-winning photography, what a neighbor ate for breakfast this morning, and a gathering of celebrity cats. Individuals have successfully built their own brands through photo sharing apps. That’s the power of the photograph.

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Photos have the benefit that language lacks. While languages have to be translated in order to reach a global audience, photographs do not. It is one of, if not the most universally comprehensible forms of communication.

Photo sharing has also evolved into a collaborative experience. On several platforms, users are able to create public or private albums, with contributors adding their photos to the mix. Whether those contributors are friends, family, or total strangers, the photo sharing experience is not limited to individuals.

Less Isn’t Always More

While applications like Instagram certainly tend to adhere to quality over quality guidelines, individuals have little reason not to take as many photos as they want. Cell phone storage capacity might be adequate, but there are several cloud-based storage options that allow users to have a seemingly endless photo cache. Microsoft’s OneDrive is a common solution that allows users to store all their photos, organize into albums, and share the favorites. No more large email attachments or thumb drives — just send a link via email, text, iMessage, or Facebook.

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