Why Uploads Bring Us Down

By HELENA WU, freshman

We have all been told sometime in our lives that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, we’ve seen time and time again that items in great abundance decrease in value. This is a phenomenon that has unfortunately, over the years, begun to impact personal photography. Although your grandmother, for example, may have cherished that one grayscale photograph of her infant self at the county fair, you would likely feel less emotionally attached to a photo you might have taken of your latest hairdo because you thought it was “cute” — which you then proceeded to post on Facebook, Instagram, or any of the other numerous social networking sites. Sadly, the majority of people today take so many random and inconsequential snapshots that they accumulate quickly and often become meaningless and forgotten. The value of photographs has essentially disappeared.

This science of capturing light to preserve moments for eternity was developed because we wanted to commemorate the pinnacles of our lives, such as graduations, weddings, and anniversaries. One glance at a childhood picture could evoke nostalgic memories of family day trips to a sparkling lake, or your furry, four-legged best friend from years ago. Photography used to be a sanctified, dignified craft. Yet the modern values of the Information Age, mostly derived from social media, have encouraged people to take multiple pictures daily, simply for fleeting moments of pleasure. Rarely can care-worn, cherished photo albums be found these days, over which close family members can fondly discuss their past shared experiences. Instead, photographs have become meaningless objects that just take space on a hard drive or on a cloud; they are plenty and therefore dispensable.

This mindset has even led to abuses of this miraculous technology, such as sexting — which manipulates the dynamic technology to ruin young lives and break vulnerable hearts. Now it is easier than ever to use photography to tear apart relationships rather than to strengthen them. Often, even pictures that are publicly available through the Internet are abused; they are exploited to cyber-stalk unwitting victims or claimed as fraudulent profile pictures for nefarious reasons. A collection of snapshots should celebrate a person’s life. They deserve to be shared with only friends and family, and do not belong in the virtual hands of total strangers.
 Unfortunately, pictures do wreak some havoc in the public sphere. Altogether, albums convey implicit messages about the type of person you are and about the values and experiences that you treasure the most — not excluding aspects of your life better left private. Job interviewers, college admissions officers, and other figures of authority can easily access these candid collections, including pictures that may show you engaging in obscene behavior. Will they be impressed by what they see — or will they reconsider their impressions of the person behind those carelessly posted words and images online?

What has happened to the old-fashioned development of camera films and the in-person communication of valued photographs with friends? They have sadly been replaced by the accelerated downloading and shockingly rapid spreading of digital snapshots that, due to their ubiquity, downplay the value of their subjects: an individual’s precious memories. If we want to truly cherish and eternalize the actual momentous events of our lives, it is imperative that we are prudent about when and why we take pictures, as well as whom we share them with. If you choose to make every single one of your moments permanent — not just the important ones — then they are all worth the same: little to nothing whatsoever.

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