I seem to have spent all my free time in the last few weeks pouring through boxes of photos. These aren’t from my career as a professional photographer – they are my personal “snaps” and crates full of family photographs stored by my father up until he passed away a few years ago. We are on the move to a new home in Bath – and the storage space of our new house is greatly reduced compared to the stable block bursting with “stuff” at our current abode. I’m a hoarder!
Photographs are wonderful things. They stir memories. They promote a human interaction in the taking and the sharing. They always have done and always will. In modern social media there has been no change. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said of the social elements of FB Photos:
““The photo product that we have is maybe five or six times more used than every other product on the web — combined,””
Photos are Facebook’s lifeblood.
From these boxes, I pulled out a bundle of holiday snaps this week. Four packets of pictures from my first foreign holiday to Portugal in the late 80s – nearly 25 years ago. I went with a couple of friends (who happened to be girls). We had a great time, I got painfully sunburned, my bed got infested with ants – it was fun.
However, what the hell was I wearing? Did people really sell clothes like that in those days – and why was I the fool buying them? Who are those people in the pictures we shared beers with?
Well, I’ve been able to “weed history” to my own recollection. There are 5 pictures saved – they are highlights I can use to remember. The rest of the packs (including the shocking images you can vaguely see in the thumbnail image here) are heading for the bonfire. The saved images are going in my “Personal Box” where I store my keepsakes. Mine!
How will a Facebook generation cope with this “baggage”? These 4 packs of images, today would be uploaded to FB unedited – and remain there for all to see 25 years later. They’d undoubtedly be shared with virtually everyone I’d had a beer with on the holiday and “friended” on Facebook. Can anyone explain to me how that “baggage” will work for Generation Y? Will FB let you weed and put on the bonfire by then?
One of my favourite songs is by The Beatles – “In My Life”. Its chorus goes:
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
Everyone does that. Recollects, smiles, cries – with affection. It’s personal. My life is richer for the people and the experiences – but the record is in my minds eye with photographs aiding that recollection. How does that work in the deeply shared and connected world of Facebook?
I was just about to press the “publish” button …. and …. discovered a brand new iPhone App called “The Last Night Never Happened“.
As they say these days “we’ve got an app for that!” Not quite the answer – but people are starting to realise the issue.
I hope you’re not too traumatized by having to “edit” down all of your stuff so you can move. I managed to get our similar “stuff” down to 1 medium rubbermaid bin for each of us when we moved 2.5 years ago. They’re still nicely stacked in the closet in my spare room/office – with similar plans to further purge when the boys are out for Easter Break.
Thanks for this post – we do live in interesting times – and it’s exciting to have the opportunity not just to participate in, but to watch the social media “revolution” play itself out.
Like the man in the interview, I was wishing for the days when I’d have had more use for this app! Can you get it for Android?
Just got back in the house after a grand bonfire at the bottom of the garden. The editing experience has been quite cathartic – and a task that needed to be done sometime. I’ve got my “stuff” down to 4 boxes – which is good for a hoarder like me.
You’re right – we do live in interesting times. These things always sort themselves out – I am sure there was similar doom and gloom when phones, the internet, email were introduced. I’m still struggling to see a natural conclusion to the “reverse Big Brother” going on at the moment. We’re not being watched by governments – we’re just publishing our personal stuff willy nilly!
Yes, I did smile at the guy’s take on the App! Maybe it’s just a wish that I had more use for it too!
Looks like iPhone only at the mo – must be more fun than Android users 😉
Touching on a lot of issues here. Moving always involves the confronting / manipulation of items / whole boxes often left untouched since our last house move… Our past resurfaces in the most interesting and parcelled way! It is a very good question as to the way in which the seeming lack freedom to bonfire or not to bonfire will affect our children’s lives.
Hi Laury. You’re quite right – there are a lot of issues her. As you identify, the key point is this freedom to “bonfire or not to bonfire”. It’s about the choice to keep things personal and make decisions on how to present yourself. I’m not talking of painting our history (you can’t do that in your memories) – but it’s the freedom not to push every detail of your life through to prying, judgmental eyes. Interesting times. Bonfire went well – still gently burning 24 hours on!
My husband Tony works as an appraiser of “antiques, collectibles and personal property” and so he deals frequently with people and their stuff – often with children who are dealing with their parents’ stuff. It is interesting to see the different values people place on the items that hold memories, and how my parents’ generation is having difficulty finding takers for Great-granny’s china. (The pendulum is swinging, however, and there is a growing “Antiques are Green” movement started in the UK so antique dealers have their fingers crossed!)
In my own situation, as the eldest spinster (until only recently) niece on the “Campbell” side, I had been given the binder from hell of the family genealogy dating back to the 18th Century. This prompted my mother to collect information, photos and framed pictures from her side of the family and send them along as well. At first I felt some responsibility to digitize all of it, but that feeling has passed.
We hung a lot of the old photos in the antique shop we ran for a while more in an effort to make the place look full, but people certainly had strong reactions to the idea that anyone would want to sell off their family history. No takers. If you’d like a lovely framed portrait of the graduating University of Toronto pharmacy class of 1901, I can hook you up!
Hi Beth. That’s a really interesting take.
I’ve weeded down the family history to 2 plastic crates. Only kept pictures and papers (e.g. Great Grandfathers record of naval service). I’ve passed it on to my sister to review, she’s then going to take to relatives in Liverpool to look over – and one of the oldest boxes might then head over to Toronto to my aunty (only surviving relative on my mum’s side).
I’d like to keep it “known” in family what’s around – and if we get a budding genealogist at some point, they can take over. Much like you, wanted to digitise – but life’s too short to spend so much time looking back.
I can understand people not being interested in other family photos – although when the records form a genuine social record (e.g. people stood in streets, working, at leisure, etc) they can become quite interesting.
I bet your picture of the University of Toronto pharmacy class of 1901 would gather interest if you had the caption details of who everyone was. Those amateur genealogists would come out the woodwork and find those missing photos of their old relatives. One of the challenges of the boxes of family photos is “who are they”!? One benefit of the Facebook/Face Recognition generation!
I think we’ll be seeing more and more cataloging and filtering tools for our online content. A friend of mine, Tom Berarducci, used to work for Kodak, and says that one of the biggest digital challenges we’ve got right now is automated image filtering. It would be marvelous to tell a tool “find all photos of this face” and at least get close. When we’re all responsible for the entire taxonomy and hierarchy of our digital storage, mayhem ensues.
Most folks view online storage as free and unlimited, just because that’s what YouTube, Picasa, etc. call it. But every item we own takes up a bit of cognizance, a space in our head.
As you know, Phil, I recently divested myself of 80% of my possessions to become a nomad, and while it was emotionally difficult, it was physically simple: sell, trash, or store? Not so easy with the +/- 2 TERAbytes of data I own. And this coming from a database guy from way back who knows hierarchical storage and taxonomies better than the average bear.
Think the tools are getting better on the photo filters. However, remember these pics only trigger recollections of people, places and events. The best stuff is in your head as memories.
Hey, 2 TB of storage! Think I prefer going through 25 dusty boxes of my dad’s photos and papers. Promised my son that I would not do the same to him. Wonder how he’ll deal with my Terrabytes? Will “they” have an app for that? 🙂