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SXSW 2011 – A Discussion on Social Photo Sharing


Sam Odio, PM of Photos & Video at Facebook, and Yan-David Erlich, start up veteran behind mopho/Happiness Engines, led a “core conversation” about social photo sharing. Basically, we had circle time, sat in the round and talked about whatever came up about sharing photos online. Here’s how our conversation went:

 

Pictures are Emotional, Make us feel good

Sitting with two very young, successful guys, the conversation naturally started with start up talk. After they answered the questions about start ups with some basic how-to-succeed talk (simply a mix of luck, sacrifice and KISS (keep it simple, stupid)), some interesting conversation about the nature of social photo sharing began. According to Odio, the main drive behind the Facebook Photo section is helping the users “tell the story” of their lives.

 

“I feel like I’m in the business of dopamine delivery,” he said. When you see that photo of your nephew, some tweak happens in your brain – you get a rush of emotion. You feel good. You want more. That “tweak” is what brings people back.

 

“Of course I remember that…it’s on Facebook.”

A photojournalism professor in the audience brought up an interesting thought: The normal human brain is meant for memories to fade with time; this is the natural way the brain processes the past and moves on. Is Facebook and photo sharing changing this? For the worse? The panelists argue no – quite the opposite in fact. Erlich said that there are certain memories he made a point of remembering from his childhood, knowing it was important and that he should be able to recall them. Now, he argues, he has an “external memory” – somewhere he knows he can check to retrieve that important moment. And now that his mind is freed up, who knows what that saved brain space can do or accomplish? Now I love photo sharing, but in the end, the jury’s still out for me on this argument. Very interesting.

 

Picasso, Schmicasso….everyone’s an artist

Instagram and filters are making everyone an artist. Technology like Instagram gives the normal person power to easily edit their photos by applying simple filters. They feel good/proud about their work and are more willing to share, the panelists said. Does this water down the artistic process, or is it a renaissance of sorts? The bottom line is that people are feeling better about their pictures and they want to share. For companies, leveraging this boldness and readiness to share may be leading to a more vocal and active consumer base, more willing to participate in photo-driven initiatives.

 

The Future of Facebook Photos

A couple of insights came out on the future of Facebook photos. Nothing is set in stone, but we may be seeing new ways to “tell our story” through Facebook photos. This may be through event-based tagging and photo organization. So instead of just being able to sort through yours or others’ photos by tagged people, you may sort photos by tagged events or subject matter.

 

The Undeniable Global Hold

One of the last participants in this core conversation was a man who had just arrived from Japan. This panel occurred on Friday, March 11, 2011 – the day the devastating earthquakes occurred in Japan. With broken English, he marveled at how he was able to see Facebook and Twitter take over during the crisis as a means of conversation and news sharing. Something that TV and other means of communication couldn’t do because of downed power grids or local resources. Odio from Facebook started by sharing his condolences with the man and his family, and then simply saying how humbled he was to be a part of something that really has become a ridiculously powerful social tool and means of human communication. It was a sobering moment, but quite apropos for the session. The power and reach of Facebook and the social sharing network we’ve all built is undeniable.

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