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Blog // Simplicity // Technology
January 21, 2019

This Week I Quit Flickr (Properly At Last)

Flickr was once everyone’s favourite way to share photos online. Then it wasn’t. Many of us quit. But, I never quite got around to finally deleting my account until now. Here’s what happened.

Hang on a minute – didn’t I make a big wave about quitting Flickr a long, long time ago?

Yes. Twice (here and here).

I didn’t lie – not exactly. I just never got around to actually deleting my account. Partly because the whole thing with logging into Yahoo was always so complicated. (Remember when Yahoo was a company that actually did cool things? Yeah, I don’t either. But their old homepage, from the pre-Google days, does come to mind. They must’ve been cool once.)

I did the hard work of contacting people who followed me there and explaining my reasons. But there were some edits of photos I wanted to download. And it always seemed too hard. It was a comment on the way my last few years have gone. Skating over a sea of unfinished projects.

Anyway, this week I finally deleted my account, downloading all the photos I had there and also archiving the account information Flickr had on me, just in case. You can see some simple guides on how to do it here and here.

I had been reminded of my failure to take this final step by recent emails announcing changes to Flickr and offering new pro services, like the kind I stopped using back in 2012.

Not long ago Flickr was bought by SmugMug. I remember trying SmugMug. It was aggressively pushed by photobloggers who were into aggressively pushing things. SmugMug was OK. At least they understood photographers, which Yahoo never did.

But is there really a place for a Flickr-like platform today? I don’t believe so. At least, not for me.

If you want to get noticed then it makes sense either to be where the most traffic passes by, like Instagram, or maybe on a very niche platform matching your interests.

As a professional, the best move is to show just enough of your work to prove your worth, and then to direct people to a way to pay you for your services, either by booking you, or buying prints or other products, or attending an exhibition, or contacting your representation to license your images.

Flickr is none of those things, either for getting noticed or for getting paid.

Back in 2012 I wrote, “There’s an irony in SoundCloud saying they want to be the Flickr of music, while Flickr is becoming the MySpace of photography. Flickr was, for a number of years, the benchmark for sharing photos online. But, I’m afraid that time is well and truly behind us now.”

The new pro offering from Flickr is a lot like the kind of pro offering SoundCloud tried to push for many years. I’ll say more about SoundCloud next week.

For now the issue is Flickr. Or rather, the issue is actually taking the final step I nearly took years ago.

Because what I did with Flickr was a bit like deciding to throw out clothes I no longer wear, but then leaving them in the closet anyway. Worse than that, in fact, because I wrote about the whole thing, like I was some kind of tidying-up expert. When really I was a “thinking about tidying up” expert.

Tidying up our digital identities feels urgent now; Digital Minimalism, as Cal Newport has called it.

I quit Facebook in 2009. Wrote in 2010 about the way it seemed to invite big privacy issues. And might even be making us all dumber. There was a backlash; even back then.

Then I just seemed to coast along.

OK, I’m being harsh on myself. I wrote the original posts about leaving Flickr in 2012. My life was in a mess at the time. A lot of things from those two difficult years I lived in Singapore, from 2011 to 2013, didn’t go the way I hoped, and many things didn’t get finished.

In one sense, the time it took to resolve the login issues, download the photos, and finally delete the account was trivial. Yet in another way it mattered. Because there’s a freedom in finally taking that trash to the kerb and seeing it go, either physically or virtually. It’s the freedom of overcoming your own past laziness and entropy. Of realising the present version of you is more thorough and decisive than the past version – and can see more clearly not only what needs to be done, but how to finish it.

This Week I Quit is an occasional series where I share experiences of quitting apps, platforms, habits and commitments in a quest to live a simpler and more focussed creative life. Last time I quit Evernote and you can read the rest of the series here.

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