The Facebook-ification of Path and Instagram is at least partly our fault
Our views on how photos should be shared are murkier than even the blurriest of ill-advised selfies.You'd think, based on an editorial from the Verge, that tagging someone in an Instagram photo might steal their soul, but the same feature is considered a core aspect of Facebook's service. Tumblr was founded on the idea that you should be able to easily share and re-share anything you find from other users and the Web, but when Path introduces a "Repath" feature that does something similar on its "private" network it's time to roll your eyes at Dave Morin and his two iPhones while tittering about how Path just doesn't get it once again. Who would have thought that, as so many of us began to carry cameras with us wherever we went, the idea of sharing or not sharing a photo would still be such a problem?
This problem is, at least on some level, dependent on each service and network. Path's "Repath" feature is contentious not because it facilitates sharing, but because it helps your contacts share photos you assumed were private, given the service's promise of creating a private network. Instagram's newfound emphasis on the people within photos instead of the photos themselves is the first overt Facebook-ification of the service, which might frustrate users attracted to Instagram because it was separate from Facebook. And it's that Facebook-ification of ostensibly different services that causes problems.
Facebook is a near-ubiquitous force in our everyday lives. It's in our phones, on our desktops, and soon directly on our actual, flesh-and-blood-and-sweat faces, courtesy of Google Glass. It's a seemingly never-ending cavalcade of Likes, status updates, and, yes, photos. And it's just so goddamned exhausting to manage. You have to decide which version of yourself you'd like to present to the public (or at least your Facebook friends, which might as well be the same thing at this point), make sure your friends didn't post photos of your trip to Amsterdam for your employer -- or, worse, mother -- to see, and basically, to steal a line from every douchebag social media person who's ever come across my inbox, manage your personal brand. Facebook used to be the place you'd go to escape the pressures and mundanities of your real life; now it's become a stressor in its own right.
Path and Instagram are -- or were, anyway -- different. You didn't have to worry about your employer, or ex-lover, or anyone with access to a search engine finding your personal photos and updates. Unlike Facebook and its arcane privacy policies, you knew who could see the stuff you shared to Path. It's… quiet. Instagram was the same way, but with a more public twist. Anyone could view your Instagram photos (unless you made your profile private) but nobody could add their own photos to your profile. As the Verge puts it:
Of course, there is a bit of hypocrisy at play here. If I share an unflattering photo of you and its ends up on your profile I'm being "social." If you share an embarrassing photo of me that appears on my profile you're an asshole. The ability to Repath (I am going to type that until it stops sounding ridiculous, sorry) a photo or tag your Instagram friends and invade their profile is only a problem because you and your friends use the feature.The profile was formerly created solely by you, whereas it is now in part created by friends. In this choice, Instagram risks becoming another burden, an online identity we need to police, rather than an ephemeral stream we can dip into at our pleasure.
You can blame Path, or Instagram, or Facebook all you want, but in the end this is our fault. If we don't want another Facebook, then we shouldn't use services the same way we use Mark Zuckerberg's great blue giant, even if they make it easier to do so.