It's at this time of the year that pundits, tastemakers and futurists start making fantastical predictions about what we will expect in 2013. Some of these predictions are obvious and will become true and some will hit the mark. I like making predictions and am sometimes wrong in knowing when and if things will happen (NFC gaining wider adoption, the uptake of mobile wallets, Twitter to replace text messaging etc.). I thought, how could I be more certain with my predictions?
I started to think about how we, as humans, behave in the new socially connected landscape and how we are happy to accept less in our lives. My predictions are threefold for 2013.
Our creative lives will be low quality due to convenience
I love music, art and photography. All three have become democratized by the introduction of accessible technologies, e-commerce platforms and social media. While this has created accessibility, it has made us all create and accept less quality content.
Every day we listen to great music in the form of MP3s (and other compressed formats) that provide flatter sounds than good stereo equipment and vinyl. This became obvious to me when I 'downgraded' my living space to have no TV and a vintage 1980's record player. I dug out my old records (I thank my formative years for DJing and record collecting) and listened to high-fidelity music for the first time in six years. Why had I not done this before? I play records at home and can hear the range of frequencies and can climb inside those intricate worlds that have been created. It made me realize that I have compromised my taste due to convenience, as so many people have.
Photography is the same. We prefer disposable low-resolution images and browsing art on the web to visiting galleries and taking personal photographs using proper cameras. We create millions of 'artistic' and intimate images everyday and share through Instagram and other platforms. We even make them look old and degraded then think it's cool. Well, it's not. What is cool is the World Press Photo 2012 collection, Boston.com's Big Picture , National Geographic and other photographers that truly capture the quality we see with our own eyes in real life.
Not everyone is a world-class photographer but maybe, if we start approaching photography like we used to, then we will use real cameras and capture some magic and treasure those few moments.
We will be fatigued yet addicted to social media even more
Facebook has also not had its day yet but people are starting to treat it as only an aggregator of information. They are also finding that advertising has taken it over on the web and mobile devices. It is advertising and shareholder greed that has killed the experience. Sorry, let me adjust that last comment a little. Spam has killed the experience. Good advertising rarely appears on Facebook anymore in terms of side bar adverts and brand messages. This is why brands are moving to story-telling and humanistic approaches to connection. These will draw us back in as viewers and, really, Facebook will become transparent. And we will go back even more. Which is a bit of a shame.
We will start to celebrate locally-connected societies more but with less conversation
Cities have been celebrating the world of open data over the past two or three years. Transparency and access is amazing in this day and age however this turn towards data crunching and utility has the potential to turn is in on us. We have an amazing open data culture yet we still mostly find ourselves to be self-absorbed, isolationist and quite unfriendly. We've disappeared into our own worlds and technology is making up for the short fall in those connections.
IM, email, social media connect us to local information. Douglas Coupland, author and futurist, is even championing digital over human connection with his 'revolutionary' V-Pole. This device, which is about the size of a telephone pole, would manage cell signals for multiple carriers and carry wireless Internet for the surrounding neighbourhood. There would also be inductive charging for parked electric cars, an integrated touch screen with local maps, ads, payment interfaces, and an LED street light. Sound great. Actually, it seems inevitable and a little depressing. We will find even less of a need to speak with each other and even venture out of our homes. Innovations will continue to roll out in our cities under the guise of information and connection however there is the potential for this to backfire.
So, there you have it. Low quality, fatigue and introversion awaits us in 2013, but only if we let it. I say, go outside, demand more from real life, downgrade your home, read a book, be more analog and smile at people on the street. Use technologies only when the need arises rather than out of compulsion. That way we can all find utility rather than reliance in the innovations being introduced into our world.
One of the app's ultimate sins? Copycating. Make your own content and respect your fellow Instagrammers. It's not polite (or entirely legal) to take a screen shot of another person's photo, change the filter, and pretend like it's your own.
There are things you're going to want to snap a picture of -- cats, the shoes on your feet, greasy food, an artsy shot of nothing, etc. -- but beware of falling into an Instagram cliche. Followers don't mind these pictures every once in awhile, but give your fans something new to keep them coming back for more.
Some pictures are best left unposted. You would think this would go without saying, but unfortunately it must be mentioned. Drugs, porn, pictures of you on the toilet, pictures of your "friends" on the toilet, a broken toenail: These are all perfect examples of what followers just don't want to see. (If we can't see it, then it's not real. So please don't let us see it.)
It's totally fine to take several photos and upload them to Instagram the same day. You're crossing a line, however, when you don't use Instagram for a week and suddenly spam your followers with 14 uploads in a matter of six minutes.
Hashtags help Instagramers categorize pictures, or are used ironically much like on Twitter. For example, if you take a picture of the Statue of Liberty, a proper hashtag might be #nyc. But drowning a photo in irrelevant hashtags will only frustrate viewers. There is such a thing as #toomuch.
Pictures you take of yourself might be fine, but too many "selfie" shots annoy followers. Who wants to see three or four Instagrams of a face in different positions? Refrain from taking MySpace pictures and flip that camera around on someone else occasionally.
It's okay to want more followers on your social media sites, but isn't it a little desperate to type "please follow me!" in the comments box of pictures and throughout your "About Me" section? Create great content, regularly participate with other users, and you are guaranteed to earn followers without begging for them.
Your children are adorable, and who wouldn't love that dog always featured on your Instagram? But similar to selfie shots, these objects of your affection may begin to grow old for your friends... particularly if you upload 16 photos of little Sue daily. Sometimes one picture says it all.
If you "like" a photo, then it's assumed you found that picture to be aesthetically pleasing. What is not assumed is that you expected a "like" or a "follow" in return. And don't even think about unfollowing someone because they didn't follow you back. This sort of middle school behavior is not appreciated. "Like" worthy pictures for the sake of liking them.
Your followers want to see your beautiful or surprising photos. What they don't want to see is something that won't make sense to them, like an inside joke that you drew about a donkey and a pancake. In this case, it's best to just keep your doodles to yourself.
Here are Instagram words to live by: Document life, show off your quirky moments, and tell a vibrant, filter-filled story. Post those pics you're proud of, and your followers will probably "like" them, too.
Follow Nikolas Badminton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nikolasfuturist