Putting all your eggs in one basket will screw you over in the future, one way or the other.
You should own your own space on the World Wide Web. FULL STOP. To believe that everything you upload onto Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube is going to last forever is naive and completely untrue. Case in point: Myspace. Remember those guys? I do. During its heyday I had uploaded many pictures and music files onto the forum, not even thinking about the future per se. I believed, perhaps like everyone else there, that I would always have access to my content as long as I didn’t forget my password or get locked out somehow. I was wrong. Allow me a quote from the opening paragraph of a Guardian article from 2019: “Myspace, the once mighty social network, has lost every single piece of content uploaded to its site before 2016, including millions of songs, photos and videos with no other home on the internet.”
I invite you to read the piece. And I hope that it gets you thinking. Because I was one of those users who had lost files – files which I didn’t have backed-up. TikTok
TikTok is a recent example of a social media platform vanishing (in India) - and when I say recent, I mean as in a few days ago recent. Just because someone in the Indian government has bad relations with China, an entire platform (along with dozens of others) vanish overnight at the whim of people who shouldn't be given the steering wheels to their own cars. Politics aside, millions of content creators, professional and enthusiasts, lost their content and their voice - through no fault of their own. Begs the question: Do you think India's 120 million monthly TikTok users backed up all their videos?
Long before I learned about the demise of Myspace’s archives, I created some semblance of redundancy for my digital content in recent years. This included making sure I had my own web presence in the form of a website, one with my own domain and for which I paid for out of my own pocket. The reasons for this are many. But here are a couple which artists should consider. Nothing is forever
Ain’t that the truth – and maybe that’s a good thing in its own way. But to lose all your files in your own lifetime should be deemed unacceptable. Using social media platforms for storage is a bad strategy for data management. Just as it is to believe your phone is a great storage facility for all your pictures and video. Newsflash: you will lose your phone OR it will break OR it will come time to buy a new phone, and for any number of reasons, your files won’t be transferred over. Without getting into the nitty gritty, we should have all our files on physical hard drives or other storage devices. Another FULL STOP. You make your own rules when you own your website This is the most important aspect of literally taking ownership of your online presence. You determine your identity, as in your domain name and how you present yourself. And you get to determine how much and what to upload without fear of breaking User Agreements. All “free” platforms have restrictions in the amount of data you can upload and store without paying for it. You may think that you can upload all that you want to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc., but can you really? Is that how it actually is? No. The truth is, if you’re uploading full resolution images to these platforms, they’re getting compressed – losing image quality. On Instagram the images get downsized to 1080 pixels on the longest side. So if you think your phone shot or worse still – your high resolution images taken on your professional camera – will live on for eternity in their full glory, then you’re living in another reality. And at some point in your lifetime, you’ll experience the error of your ways if you’re using social media as eternal storage. I’m not saying don’t use social media! We all know that social media is the best way to connect to people, much better than relying on one’s own website. That’s just the facts, ma’am. Best practice is to own your website and continue using social media, posting as you usually do, with this one caveat: Build up your website in parallel with your original content that you’re sharing on social media. Even if your website isn’t as important to you as a creative person than your interactions with the public, having a website that already contains your images, video, music, or whatever – will actually make it easier to share again in the event of Facebook vanishing or for when the time comes to switch over to the new kid on the block – the next Facebook. Why I’m writing about this Personally speaking, and besides having lost precious files in the past, I’ve seen far too many photographers who don’t have a Web presence beyond their social media platform(s) of choice. I’ve even had a few tell me that they store everything there and eventually end up deleting everything from their hard drives and other devices to free up space to continue working. Granted, these people I mention aren’t professionals. But a few of them seem to believe that their content will last forever on the Web. They shoot a lot of photos and videos. They share their work even more than many professionals. But they’re making the big mistake I made. Users give up their rights to their content (in most cases) once they upload to “free” social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Their work is subject to community guidelines, to the whims of User Agreements, etc. At any time an enduser could lose their content because someone decided it wasn’t fit for the platform. It will be either be deleted outright or made invisible to the public. Additionally, the enduser may be warned or punished for having uploaded the content to begin with. With enough strikes against you, you even risk being banned from the site. Then what will you do? Download all that content you spent years uploading? And where will you download it to, if it’s even a possibility? The answer to this question is to where your content should have been stored all along: on your own physical storage devices – and on your own website.