A Letter To People Who Steal Content On Social Media Love, A Former Thief

Friday, December 04, 2015


I've always thought photographs are a little bit of magic. They can take you to another place without you ever stepping foot beyond your front door. You can hang them up and look at them, dreaming of faraway places with tall mountains or seaside views. They can freeze a special moment in time, allowing you to revisit a favorite day or a favorite feeling.

Pictures have a way speaking to us even though they lack words. Some of them are thought provoking while others are astoundingly beautiful. They're a piece of art whose creators we often abuse without even realizing it. 

Chances are, you have an account on some type of social media platform.. Every time you log into your social media account, you are exposed to around 250 pictures, often without even realizing it. If you're anything like me, you've probably never stopped to think who took all the pictures you scroll passed. In fact, you've probably retweeted a photo-set of your future "home goals" or screenshotted an Instagram picture of a hike in Washington, or shared a photo on Facebook of a stunning sunset without ever thinking twice about the original photographer receiving proper credit for their work.

I never considered myself a thief. I never thought I was someone who stole content or took someone else's art, yet after getting a glimpse of the world of photography though my Twitter account, I had a change of heart. I save pictures from Pinterest and Tumblr and Instagram all the time. When I find a beautiful picture, I feel compelled to share it with the world. While a picture is a fairly simple thing, it has the power to connect people, and I've always wanted to connect people through our mutual love of mountain hikes and airplane flights and chasing waterfalls. I only had good intentions as I began to share my favorite pieces of art one tweet at a time. 

My retweets, favorites, and followers started to drastically increase as I continued to share stunning pictures of adventures from all around the world. It was harmless fun and games; something that was supposed to inspire others to get out there and explore. That is, fun and games until a photographer called me out for using his photos without giving him credit. I'm embarrassed to say that it never occurred to me that these pictures were taken by someone; much less someone who deserved to be credited. I found them on Tumblr, saved them, and posted them. The photographer posted them online, so that makes them fair game, right? That's not stealing.

Yeah, I was wrong, Really wrong. As I continued to tweet, I got to know a few photographers that I think are incredibly talented. Through their social media sites, I got a glimpse of what happens behind the perfect photograph. There's early morning photo-shoots, late night editing sessions, absurdly long hours, and extremely hard work involved in being a creative. Your favorite photograph that you've retweeted or reposted without proper credit was taken from an artist. An artist who is always growing creatively as they continue photographing everything from weddings to nature to the normal aspects of our lives with endless dedication and admirable determination. An artist worthy of respect and credit.

Stealing photos may not seem like a huge issue in the grand scheme of things, but the least these photographers deserve is a little bit of credit. Photographers have a thankless job, especially in the age of the internet. They've lost billions of dollars because of stolen content that took hours to create, so I urge you to spend a few minutes to properly credit the photographer before you repost their work. Every time you post/retweet/reblog a photo without crediting the artist, you are taking away exposure/potential opportunists for this person. It literally only takes a minute or two to let people know who was behind your favorite piece of art, so please make an effort to do so. 

It's easy to think that stealing a picture is no big deal, but if you have that mindset, crediting the artist at the end of your tweet, Instagram, or Tumblr post is also no big deal. If you can't bring yourself to credit, stop waiting for the perfect aesthetically pleasing picture to come along for you to steal, and go take your own pictures. As a former art thief, I truly believe that social media is a lot more fun when you give credit when credit is due. Don't sacrifice someone's hard work and originality for likes or retweets or favorites. You're better than that. So go out there, and put your thieving ways in the past, and let's start creating or crediting. 


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3 Happy Thoughts

  1. SOMEONE HAD TO SAY IT THANK YOU

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  2. I've followed you on twitter for a while now, and it's so cool to see how much you've grown. I've noticed that you really try to credit photographers, and I think that's really cool and it's made me more aware of how much we don't actually ever give credit. Thank you for posting this!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this. Convicting. Revealing. <3

    ReplyDelete

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