The Dreaded Algorithm and Feeling Seen

The Dreaded Algorithm and Feeling Seen

18th Mar 2022

Friends, I am not one to (generally) care (that much) about social media stats. Less than 5,000 followers? Who gives? Our audience is engaged, and I am grateful for each and every one of you. Oh, reels are the thing now? Meh. I'm just starting to embrace Instagram Stories. I should probably join TikTok? Ugh, I think that just ain't happening. The world moves forward, fast-paced and like there's no tomorrow, and I dig into processes that feel perpetually twenty years behind. Which is (in many ways) deliberate and (mostly) just fine.

But I confess that I have my moments. I made a decision last year to focus on my photography. When I layered my iPhone photos in with my friend and photographer Heather Hall's glorious images, the contrast was too stark, the chasm too wide to even feel like the same visual universe. So I set aside the quick and easy tool of my iPhone and experimented with my "good" camera and aperture and ISO and shutter speed to capture the weekly comings and goings around here in a way that could better blend in with Heather's professional work. It's been a challenge but a fun one, and the level of joy it brings me compared to doing everything through a single device is immense and eye-opening.

It seems to me like this investment of time and energy into stronger photography should yield better reach through the social media channels I use. Instead? It feels like complete crickets lately. So it's a bit of a blow to the ego to feel that something I'm doing better than I ever have might not be translating into concrete results in terms of visibility and reach.

The whole world is tired of the word "algorithm", but when we obsess about it, what we're really after, I think, is just feeling seen. Feeling acknowledged and appreciated and supported, especially in the realm of small business where the markers of success are not remotely straightforward. When you're your own boss, there is no one patting you on the back and recognizing solid work. So social media audiences, perhaps, become a stand-in for that kind of external affirmation that we can't help but crave. 

But as with the desire for any outside affirmation, placing an ounce of value on the vagaries of social media algorithms or bending over backward to accommodate them feels like a dead-end. It is difficult to return, time and again, to your own definition of success but so necessary. That's the only kind of validation that will keep you warm at night, you know? 

So I will tell you this: I have so much still to learn about manual photography. I don't understand it well on a technical level. My learning is more intuitive, moving along by trial and error and just paying attention to what is happening with my settings and the light when I get a photo that just sings. But I am having so much fun experimenting and learning and am enjoying the creative process. One of my most important jobs around here is to convey the story of this beautiful, out-of-the-way place, and I feel like I'm only now beginning to do that in a way that does justice to what I feel when I walk in the door. And there's a lot of satisfaction in that, which is honestly worth its weight in gold--that is, if satisfaction weighed a million pounds.

So I'll keep on keeping on, probably out of pace with the world as it shifts and changes and reinvents itself. And if that's the kind of pace you like, too, well--you'll probably have to send out a search party to find us on Instagram, but we're still there. And here, seven days a week. And we're not above taking a pat on the back if you have one to spare.