Gray’s Anatomy – Silence is Golden – By Richard Gray

Another week has come and gone but just before the weekend starts we have the pleasure in publishing the wonderful words and wisdom of none other, than our great columnist, Richard Gray. This week Richard muses over comments received and shared on Instagram. Should we be more critical? As long as it’s constructive perhaps? Don’t miss this, over to you Richard. (Foreword by Joanne Carter).



“Who was it who said: of which we cannot speak, we must pass over in silence? Oh yes, Wittgenstein. Well if the great Austrian philosopher had been on Instagram, he might also have said: if you get a narky comment, pass over it in silence too.

If you’re sat opposite someone and they ask you a question and you completely ignore them, they’d think you were being a bit rude. If you don’t reply to an email, the sender might also think you were slightly rude, though there are so many emails flying around these days and if you’re really not interested in what the sender has to say, then fair enough. What about if you get a comment on your photo and you don’t reply?

As a rule, I try to respond to everyone who takes the trouble to comment on my photos on Instagram or whereever. With the two caveats that the comment is in a language I understand (ie not Russian, even if it’s an offer of marriage) and it’s not just an emoticon (even thumbs up with sparkles). But, I’m only human and, as the outgoing Pope recently mentioned (I think it was him, at least it’s the sort of thing he might have said it), humans are fallable. So, please forgive me, but I do miss a few comments.

And within reason, I expect the same in return. Do unto others etc (possibly one of the Pope’s also).  But what do you do if someone makes a comment on your photo that is a bit nasty? Like: if I see another picture of your feet I’m going to come round there personally and shove your iphone where, etc.? It’s an unspoken rule on Instagram that no one says anything critical about anyone else’s photos. Which makes it quite a boring place, but it also means you don’t get many of the sort of slanging matches that are quite common on Twitter. But if you do get a critical comment, silence is probably the best response. Written exchanges of criticism about photos between people who don’t know each other are invariably going nowhere, except a black hole of wasted time. So while I’m in the mood for quoting philosophers and popes, as the late great Tremeloes once said, on Instagram and elsewhere, silence really is golden.


© Richard Gray – ‘The Tremeloes: Silence is Golden’

Richard's mobile photography has been exhibited around the world and published in various magazines and on many websites. He launched the world's first live course in iPhone photography in early 2012 with Kensington and Chelsea College. He has given workshops with The Photographers' Gallery and British Journal of Photography. Sport England recently commissioned him to cover various of its Sportivate initiatives with the iPhone. A keen observer of this new photographic genre, his writing has been widely published (most notably in The Guardian) and he writes a blog (iphoggy-bloggy). With a big camera, he specialises in music photography ( and syndicates to Press Association (with both big and small cameras).


  • Janine Graf

    Oh I enjoyed this Richard! Definitely best to bite your tongue and not add fuel to the snarky comment fire. Our moms would be proud of us. 🙂

  • Sharon

    I would never leave, nor do I want on my own Instagram page, a negative comment. It hasn’t happened yet….knock on wood….but I love that IG gives members the ability to delete negative or those odd “Get free followers!” spam comments. (Do people really want fake followers???) The delete button is a beautiful and silent way of removing these things from my life.

  • Cindy Patrick

    I cannot imagine anyone leaving you a snarky comment, Richard, however I do believe in always taking the high road. (Not sure which philosopher said that… maybe that was the Pope too:) Cheers, friend! xx

  • Kevin Kuster

    Excellent article and social network teaching. I believe in only sharing my critiques with others only when my opinion is requested. Even when requested I prefer to do it “off line” in a none public forum. Keep up the great work.

  • Dilshad

    Would be interesting to instil a behaviour where people feel free to comment with constructive criticism or some kind of critique, instead of the usual: “amazing, wow! love it and you are wonderful, please marry me!!” comments, which I also am guilty of writing. We should be able to say, this photo “has some great potential, however you could have cropped it better, or used the rule of third or anything as an opinion, because at the end it is an opinion, but because of this we get into a process where we can actually better ourself and not just rest on our laurels… just a thought.. btw you are amazing! love you column!! So wonderful, please marry me!!

  • Geri

    Yes no reply is the best response. You can’t please everyone all the time. I so enjoy your commentaries. I expect a reply to this and it better not be snarky LOL