Sharing Something Shouldn’t Mean Giving It Away


After years of participating on both services, today I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts this week.

I’m not being reactionary. This isn’t a campaign. I didn’t delete those accounts out of spite or anger. Ultimately, I just decided that both services cost too much to use.

“But Mark,” someone will say. “Those services are free!”

No, not really. While you don’t pay money to share your stuff Facebook or Instagram, you do fork over all rights to anything you share.

When you “like” WalMart on Facebook, you grant Facebook the right to feature your name and photo in WalMart ads. You think you’re sharing a photo of your baby with Grandma … but when you do, you’re also authorizing Facebook to let a baby food company use your new daughter’s likeness in ads Facebook will show to expectant mothers.

After an internet outcry, Instagram backed away from plans to steal your photos and sell them to advertisers. But posting a photo there still gives Instagram permission to allow advertisers to use your photos in whatever way they like. In other words: advertisers will pay Instagram to use your stuff to sell their stuff … and you won’t be compensated in any way. Worse, you don’t have any control over how your work is used … or who uses it.

Both Facebook and Instagram deny that they take ownership of your stuff … but after you post it, they can use it any way they please, any time they please, for any purpose they please, without asking or paying you. If that’s not ownership … what is?

I will miss seeing your photos and posts on these services. Meantime, I hope you’ll consider sharing them in places that are a little friendlier to their users, like these places, where I’m hanging out more and more. Yahoo! shrouded flickr, leaving it to languish while the rest of the world made the jump from desktop PCs to mobile devices. But flickr’s back now (hooray!), complete with a shiny new iOS app that makes photos easier to take and share than ever. The pictures you share there? They’re yours. (Though you can give other people permission to use them if you *want* to.)

Google+. People keep thinking Google+ is a ghost town … but that attitude is *so* 2011. There’s a vibrant community of people there, sharing great content, jaw-dropping photos, and links to great stuff. Better yet, Google+ allows you to decide very specifically what you want to share … and who can see it. And while Google may display ads alongside your material, they don’t use your material *in* those ads. I’m debating leaving Twitter (which is packed with ads these days, and offering me more noise than anything else) for, which offers a very similar service for $5.00 a month. That low price per month works a kind of subtle magic, because it keeps just anyone from showing up there. As a result, posts tend to be a little meatier … and the community a little smarter. When I left Facebook, a few kind souls wrote me and said, “But we’ll miss your photos and stories!” While I won’t be posting them to Facebook, I’ll still be sharing them — but all right here, on, where I can share them without concern over who owns them. Thanks again for your interest in the things I share! I’ll be working harder to make coming here worth your time.

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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  • Facebook took my link to an author's book on Evernote I shared and turned it into an ad. I didn't know until a friend asked me if I took out an ad for the book (I didn't). That's pretty scummy. What keeps me from leaving is that everyone I interact with is so active over there.

    I agree with everything you said except the Google+ bit. Google's business model is entirely advertising. That's why Facebook scares them; Facebook will eventually surpass Google's ability to data mine and serve up better ads.

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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