Recently, as I was backing up some photos on my iPhone, I found myself asking, do I take too many pictures?
Personally, compared to my peers, I am not a prolific photographer: my phone’s camera roll currently contains only 86 pictures. At times, I feel disconnected from a generation of millennials who obsess over posting photos online.
We take more pictures in the 21st century because the role of photo-taking is changing.
In the past, a photograph was a way of recording intense personal memories to savor in the future with family and friends, like Marisa Donnelley at Thought Catalog wrote. During my early years, my mother recorded videos of me at school or at the zoo or on the beach. Now, when we watch them on our VHS player, it brings us a lot of joy. My mother’s video-recording was a selfless act. She sacrificed her ability to relax and to enjoy her surroundings by constantly capturing my activities. As a result of her sacrifice, I can re-watch parts of my childhood which I would have forgotten.
Today, photography is not simply a selfless act. With the rise of social networks such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, photo-taking, or more specifically photo-posting, has become a tool for validation and self-promotion. It’s pretty common for a teenager to text his or her friends, asking, “Is this good enough to post on Instagram?” or “What should I caption this photo?”, and this is reveals the changing purposes of digital media. While pictures and videos may still be ways to share memories with close ones, we post them on Instagram and Snapchat to embellish our social image. By taking photos of concerts and parties, we seek approval from our followers – “oh, your life must be so awesome!”
There’s a reason that Instagram users obsess over the number of likes on their posts.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with updating friends on your life through websites and applications, it becomes obsessive. My iPhone tells me that I’ve used Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook for a total of 6.5 hours this week, and for many teenagers, this number is double, or even triple.
I don’t have a solution to our generation’s social media woes, nor can I answer whether we take too many pictures. However, I believe that we should take more meaningful pictures.
The next time you pull out your phone to take a shot, ask yourself, why am I taking this photo? To cherish in the future? Or merely to post on a snapstory which will disappear in 24 hours? You’ll find your pictures a lot more meaningful.