I've been on Flickr since July 4, 2005. While I can't pretend to know the exact numbers, I am certain the Flickr universe has expanded enormously over the past three plus years. I read somewhere recently something like five thousand images are uploaded per minute (and that information may well have been several years old). In any event, it is clear there are lots more photos - and lots more people - on Flickr.
And that's a good thing, except when it isn't.
It's good of course because there are not only more photos; there are lots more good photographs from a widely diverse Flickr membership. I am a huge fan of landscape photography. I love seeing great landscapes from all over the world. Many of them take my breath away. I could say the same thing about portraiture, or macros, or black and whites, or any of the other catergories of photography that turn me on. There have always been great photographers on Flickr. Now there seem to be thousands and thousands of them. Some of them are so great their images make me weep.
I use Flickr as a learning tool. I probably look at anywhere from one hundred to five hundred photos a day. I try to gauge what works or doesn't work in an image. I look for novel points of view, or subjects. I look at EXIF data whenever I can to learn the camera settings which produced a good shot (and I read group notes to learn even more). The better Flickr photos get the better I get as a photographer. While I read articles and books on photography, I believe that, next to taking and working with my own photos, Flickr is the best learning tool I have.
Now for the downside: Flickr obsession, that emotional pull to make Flickr the center of your life, that need to post and post and post and post, to run a myriad of groups and participate in dozens of group discussions, and to comment on hundreds of others' photos, until you suddenly realize its almost two in the morning - for the fifth night in a row! There is the childish need to count how many hits each of your beloved images has, how many faves it has, and to pout if it doesn't have enough hits or faves, to feel under appreciated and to resent that guy with more hits than you. And, worse of all, there are those ocasional negative comments that depress or anger you. You know you are over the line and in need of serious help when you start to have dreams and nightmares about Flickr night after night after night.
I must confess I've had several bouts of Flickr obsession. Indeed, I may be enthralled even now. I am fighting it, I am vowing to take a break. I think I can do it. Maybe. At least I hope so. My wife is giving me those looks again. But I might wait wait till next week, or until the holidays. Perhaps a New Year's resolution is the way to go....
Flickr is a wonder. I can think of no better example of how the Internet has changed my life. But sometimes it is like crack cocaine; it can take over my life. I just wonder how much that is true for the rest of the population of Flickr Nation. Care to comment? We could start a group!!