I'm really not too sure. The above question must be a fairly new one. If you think about it, photography used to be an expensive hobby; with the dark room, cost of film, etc. Born in 1987, I can remember that one guy who always had a camera. No one else really bothered or knew what he was doing. The prints would look great, sure, but no one seemed to question the technique or effort.
Now we all have cameras in our pocket. Has photography become a social activity?
If we look at the nature of Facebook and Instagram, the logical conclusion would be, yes, it has. What happened to that one guy at those parties in the 80s or 90s who was always carrying that camera that looked too complicated to comprehend? He has been replaced by simple accessibilty: if you want a phone; you get a camera. Following this, is the question of social photography.
No longer are you that lone photo geek at the party or event, instead, everyone is at it. It used to be considered a fine art; a discipline. How do you maintain that when it's so easily accessible? The answer is to embrace change.
Now, going from that guy hanging about at a party with a fully manual camera to everyone taking selfies and videos is never going to be easy, but there is still art in photography. Finding originality is the tough part. Everyone is using iPhones to take photos of pets, their holidays, their families, or their food. You can still be that one guy with the camera. You just need to learn from others and rise above the rest through originality.
You will notice that a lot of photographers visit the same places, and hence end up with the same photos. This is perfectly fine if it's just for fun alone, but if you want to make it professionally, you need to think outside of all of that.
This doesn't mean to say that social photography is a bad thing...
SOCIAL PHOTOGRAPHY - MEETING PEOPLE
The best thing about Instagram or Facebook is the ability to see other people's work on a daily basis. They are like a well of inspiration. To grow as an artist you need a solid foundation to build on, but the final product should be unique and your own.
In the modern world of photography, it's so easy to meet new talent on a face to face basis. Learn from them, grow from them, but don't be the same as them. Feed from their talent, but branch out to develop your own styles and techniques. That way, your own talent will shine through.
Saying that, you can also collaborate. Speak with one another, share each other's work, and make a project. Below is a recent project which I needed TFPC - Christina for. We named it simply, Smoke, Light, and Dust.
Really, social photography is a massive revolution in the art, and allows for people to connect, learn from each other and build on their skill, and has vastly accelerated the quality of work produced.
SOLO PHOTOGRAPHY - EXPRESSION
After all that's been said above, why go solo? It's old school, why be that guy at the party with the camera?
Well, raw individuality. Recently I have always been accompanied by another photographer. The shoot has been based around what you both want to do, but not what YOU want to do. I like to set a target before I leave. I go looking for certain themes and topics. Recently, for example, I went to Aberdeen. I had 5 hours to myself. I knew what I wanted to capture, I just didn't know where to go. Well, you just explore. I covered around 7 miles in total, with just me and music, and I feel that this was more beneficial. I managed to capture the following shots:
However, in my mind all the time was the work of my peers. I had watched the way Ash Charlton held a camera, and the way she thought so much about each shot. I have fed off of Grant Taylor's recent catalogue shot, with the bright yellow, and the close up industrial style of Shirley Simpson.
In an ever changing art world, including photography, we need to be one step ahead. We need to find ourselves and step outside of the norm and try to take risks, and to try everything.
Social Photography? Probably the best thing to happen to the art form. Everyone can share their work at the touch of a button, everyone can unite and share experiences, and new friends are made. I find there can also be a healthy competitive nature, which drives us to constantly better ourselves.
Solo photography? Of course this will always exist, but not to the same degree it used to. Now we can all be that guy at the party, but we need to rise above the rest. Sometimes you need to go it alone, but the experience you have gained through social photography will never disappear, and instead, will be there to help you create the best art you can.