How social media can help you make a commitment

I’m a big admirer of people who commit themselves to a good cause or body of work, and particularly fascinated by how we can follow along on social media.

I’m referring to things like the 365 Project, where people commit to take a photo a day for one year, and the more recent January Blog A Day (#janblogday). There’s also campaigns like the Uniform Project where participants wear one little black dress for a year as “an exercise in sustainable fashion.” I’m following one local girl’s Uniform Project on Facebook and enjoy her daily photographs. Also on the re-using a dress theme, there’s the New Dress A Day project where the author says “… the only shopping that I’ll be able to do is that of pieces that have been used and worn already”.

Kylie's 1-Dress Challenge
Kylie’s 1-Dress Challenge

Project 52 is a photograph project that provides “… real world assignments that are just like the ones you will work to get as a commercial photographer. … From shooting to a specific image size, to shooting to layout, to shooting from concept only and more, you will be pushed to up your game with every assignment”.

Julie Powell’s story of cooking each of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the art of French Cooking and blogging about this was made into the movie Julie and Julia. It’s a favourite film of mine, plotting the highs and lows of committing yourself to a daily project and sharing it online with a sometimes critical audience.

People have been taking part in these sorts of projects for years, but social media has enabled them to gain larger audiences for their efforts and also given them the tools and often the inspiration to do this more easily.

I asked a couple of my friends about their experience with these commitments.

Kate Potter has been taking part in the 365 Photo project for more than four years. She’s answered a few of my questions below.

1. What motivated you to take part in ‘photo a day’ projects?

I decided to take part in a “photo of the day project” when it dawned on me that I had lived in three houses since I had returned from a yearlong overseas trip, and I didn’t have one single photo of everyday life in those houses. None of my housemates, none of my physical surroundings, nothing. I always took photos when I was out at weddings, parties, events… but that’s only one small part of life. I feared I was missing out on capturing the “everyday” parts of my life! So I decided as a New Year’s Resolution to undertake a photo of the day project.

2. What do you gain from it?

I gain so much from the project. At first I was embarrassed to ask people to pose for a photograph in “unusual” situations, such as just going out for a quick pub lunch or in the office. Funnily enough with the rise of phone photography taking photos of people in everyday situations is nothing strange now but when I started my photo of the day project, believe it or not it was kinda weird to bring out your Canon IXUS when doing something mundane! Phone photography existed, certainly, but people weren’t documenting their everyday lives the way they are now. So it got me out of my comfort zone in asking people to pose for photos. Now it’s no problem. I absolutely love looking through the hard cover photo books that I get printed at the end of each year, and friends love looking through them too… mostly looking for pictures of themselves, of course! I get a lot of people joking about whether they will “make it” into photo of the day on a certain day! And of course I have succeeded in what I set out to do in the first place – capture everyday life, not just the parties and “big” events.

One of Kate Potter's 365 Photos a Day
One of Kate Potter’s 365 Photos a Day

You can see Kate’s fascinating FlickR stream here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kate42


Ben Teoh
 took part in the “January blog a day” and answered some questions below:

1. What motivated you to sign up to January blog a day?
I’ve never done a ‘commitment project’ before and this one was started by a friend and fellow NetSquared organiser. Knowing someone else who would be taking it on made a difference. We even swapped posts for one of the days to add to the fun.

2. What did you gain from taking part?
Definitely an appreciation of how difficult it is to blog once a day with content that you’re happy with. We’re nearing the end and I’ve missed a few days but plan on revisiting them next month simply because I haven’t had the time to write something decent. I’ve connected with a few new people through the project and look forward to working with them more in the future. I’ve also learned about what I enjoy writing about. When I was starting out, the blog had a really strong social media focus, but now that I get to do that through work, I wasn’t sure where to take my personal blog. Through January, I’ve been able to explore different styles, different topics and I’ll be looking to make my blog more personal this year.

3. Will it change your approach to blogging now?
Definitely. The daily themes were a mixed blessing. In some cases they were really good thought provokers and it’s prompted me to put a loose content calendar together as a prompt for what to post. I also feel like I was spending too much time trying to refine posts. There’s a phrase my father-in-law uses: “perfect is the enemy of good” and blogging daily has taught me the value in simply writing, giving it a quick proof read and publishing rather than deliberating about phrasing and tone for a week. A little more spontaneity is good.

I really enjoyed the variety of Ben’s blogs during January, which you can see here http://hellobenteoh.com.au/

Some people have set their own commitments which provide a lot of colour online and something to look forward to. One of my favourites comes from pal Derek who tweets a photograph of his cat every day and calls it “your moment of Kong”.

One of Derek's "Moments of Kong"
One of Derek’s “Moments of Kong”

Have you taken part in something like this? Are you tempted, or does it seem too much like hard work?

If you’re an organisation, don’t discount the opportunities of taking part. It can open up your company and your staff to a different audience and provide some fun and buzz in the office. You might want to develop your own online project or cause which people can support. Take a look at what’s happening in the exciting digital world and muse over the opportunities! Want to brainstorm? Contact me on admin @prakky.com.au

8 Comments Add yours

  1. rachieand85 says:

    I’m doing the FebFast alcohol-free February and I’m actually considering a daily blog on it. I read something a while ago by a girl from the US who quit alcohol for a year and I found it really interesting. I followed Ben Teoh’s blog a day and it was really entertaining. Sharing a journey with a relative stranger… it’s like having a friendship without knowing eachother.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Rach – I saw that blog about quitting alcohol too, and found it so fascinating. Love it when people share their stories.

  2. Jen says:

    I did a photo a day for 2 years and it helped me observe and record my everyday – kind of like Kate’s doing. It also helped me along the road to having my first ever art exhibition – something I never even thought of when I started the project. I’ve written about it too http://semanticallydriven.com/project_365.

    It’s definitely something I’m glad I did and am taking a break from it until I settle on my next project – preferably something to do with photography but you never know.

    1. Prakky says:

      I thought of you when I thought about the 365 Project, too, Jen. And I enjoyed your exhibition! That was a nice result of the project.

  3. Interesting article! I agree – social media helps you turn an idea into a commitment! It reminds me of an app I heard of – you have to check into your gym via foursquare at least three times a week – and if you don’t it posts on facebook, ‘ursula didn’t go to the gym this week’. I think the pressure that your peers give you forces you to act.

    1. Prakky says:

      That’s pressure indeed, Ursula! I think that’s one of the potential benefits of sharing these projects online: you have a peer pressure/motivation supplied by your public.

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