A picture tells a thousand lies
I became an Uncle again in early August of this year. Within minutes of having arrived at the hospital to meet the newest member of our beautiful clan, I had taken a photograph of him, and posted it on my facebook profile.
Within minutes of doing that, I had a message of congratulations from a first cousin I have never met, and who lived far away in the remotest parts of Northern Italy.
At first I thought this interaction and the technology that allowed it was simply marvelous. In discussing it with my mother, Madame Perin still found it impossible to believe. Not unlike the reaction she had when J.R got shot.
But it was only after my mother and I sat down to scheme the discourse required to influence the timing of my brothers next child that I realised the seriousness of what had happened. In the twinkling of a red eye, our lives had been cropped.
If this event had taken place some fifteen years earlier, the only photographs we would have of it would most probably have been fuzzy, of the baby crying, and of the mother looking exhausted and trying her best to look half human.
Having developed the photos in triplicate, my mother would then have carefully selected the few that would be destined for air mail, and to ensure the perception (‘bella figura’) of family life in Australia was bountiful.
But while we would still have had some opportunity to play with the facts ... digital photography has now given us the ability to redefine our memories, and indeed, to rewrite our history and life stories, and like never before.
Until the emergence of such technology, photographs were difficult to manipulate and costly to process and share. Now they can be shot, displayed, printed, stored, ‘fixed’, instantly transmitted, and archived using digital and computer and camera techniques.
With the explosion of Social Networking, the use of digital photography has also increased exponentially and with it, the need to be seen doing or having (instead of just being).
Going to Paris? Make sure you bring the camera so you can put the pictures up on Facebook and make all your friends jealous (but be sure to crop out the photos of your lover so that no one asks any awkward questions). Got a new puppy? Put the photographs on Facebook.
But is this new technology really making our lives more fulfilling or rewarding? Does it help build meaningful relationships? Well perhaps it does, and in my experience mostly if you are a 40 something year old woman pretending to be 36 looking for more than just sexy fun on a dating website.
If you ask me, instead of offering radically new options for valuing the people in our lives and enriching our memories, these ‘devices’ and the technology that goes with it mostly reinforce superficial forms of intimacy - and where ‘exchange’ of personal information or an image is fundamental.
In fifteen years time, when the dust settles on this technology and Social networking is ‘passé’, will we regret having deleted the photographs that make us look old or fat?
Will we struggle to remember the bad times, of which we have no documentary evidence? Will our memories of events be different to the stories that the photographs tell? What was the name of that lover in Paris?
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