‘It’s Just Pictures’: The Death of Social Photography as we Know it





social media, social photography, longitudinal study, stimulated recall interviews, qualitative study, user study


The widespread adoption of smartphones and increased use of social media has changed how people document and share their everyday lives. As social media has evolved over the last decade, so has social photography practice. In this short paper, we discuss this evolution in relation to our work in progress within an ongoing longitudinal qualitative study spanning over ten years. In this project, we have conducted semi-structured interviews with the same group of informants in 2012, 2017 and 2022. This methodological approach has allowed us to examine how social media users reflect on experience, use and practice. In this paper, we highlight how during this last decade there has been a shift in how people document and share their everyday life in social media. More than ever before, social media users of today are able to document and share snapshots of everyday life, keeping friends and memories close and easy to access. However, in the early days of social media, people were more active in terms of their own production of content and posting of pictures, while today, they share less new material. From our analysis, we discuss how our informants report a shift in how they experience social photography, from being a process of editing and sharing photos intensely, to a more passive approach where they describe taking a lot of images, but not sharing them on social media to the same extent as they did before. Based on one representative example from our empirical material, we discuss the implications of the development of social media platforms over this past decade, and how the possibility to edit and share with others ‘in the moment’ has transformed into something less social over these years. We show how social media photography has evolved from being a practice of editing and sharing memorable content, to being less interactive, and instead involving more individual consumption and reflection, as well as sharing photographs in smaller circles. While the claim that social photography is ‘dead’ is rather bold, we do believe that there is a trend towards a less social and more individual engagement in social media photography.

Author Biographies

Beata Jungselius, School of Business, Economics and IT, University West

Beata Jungselius (Ph.D., University of Gothenburg) is an Assistant Professor of Informatics at University West, School of Business, Economics, and IT. Her research interests include social media use, digital communication, and technology-mediated interaction.

Alexandra Weilenmann

Alexandra Weilenmann (Ph.D., University of Gothenburg) is a Professor of Interaction Design at University of Gothenburg, at the Department of Applied Information Technology. Her research interests include human computer interaction, mobile technology, social media and digital health and wellbeing.