Social sites virtually take over

This online socialising thing gives rise to a whole raft introspection about whether it’s altogether healthy spending lots of time socialising over the Internet with people you’ll probably never meet in the flesh.

I’m not talking about people who can’t get out, and whose computers are a lifeline to the outside world, or friends and family living a long way from each other. It’s the ordinary Joe and Josephine Soap spending long hours online chronicling their lives and thoughts for others to read, that I wonder about.

I suppose its up to each of us to decide where we draw the line and I seem to have decided that sites, such as Facebook, promoting general socialising aren’t for me. I remember I didn’t like CB radio either – don’t ask me why, I didn’t get as far as signing up for Psychology I.

I seem to pay attention to more ordered sites that cater for my interests, primarily photography, and I spend a fair bit of time on them. The first one where I spent quite a lot of time was www.dpreview.com, which has decent camera reviews and forums where you can discuss all manner of photo-related topics.

It’s a good place to get information and share views, but it can eventually get you to thinking that you could outdo Ansel Adams if only you could get rid of your current camera and get the latest upgrade. It won’t, of course, but that doesn’t stop you scanning the adverts and wondering how to convince your spouse/bank manager as well.

Another site that I’ve been enjoying lately is flickr.com, which I’ve mentioned before, but which I’ve recently gone back to. It’s basically a photo sharing site which offers generous free accounts to store and display your photos so that others – you choose exactly who – can view them.

You just could use it to post the latest family pictures but there is a lot more going on under the surface, than just that. There are a large number of groups specialising in just about any type of photography that you could mention.

You start by uploading a picture to your Flickr album and then you can post it on one or more appropriate group pages. You could post a picture, let’s say it was a black and white of a tractor, to the black and white group and to the tractor group. And you can create your own group specialising in photographs of Andean pottery, if you like.

Group membership is entirely voluntary and so you can be sure that the members like the same sort of pictures that you do. You can then leave comments on other people’s pictures and they can do likewise to yours.

You know you’ve arrived when members of groups you’ve never even heard of, invite you to join them and post your picture on their group page. All groups have a built-in discussion forum where you can discuss tractors and tractor photography, for example, with fellow devotees.

I enjoy the whole thing very much, and have learnt an incredible amount from fellow Flickr members, but I try keep it in my head that it’s the getting out and taking photographs that’s important, not sitting at home online. It’s sometimes quite hard to remember that, though.

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Added later: There’s also the chance that, if enough people see your picture, someone will like it enough to pay you enormous sums to feature it in the latest VW advert.

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