Has Facebook changed the way you live?
I don’t mean the time you spend/waste on it. I don’t mean the time you’re sitting at your computer at all. I mean the rest of the time – when you’re out and about in the city, or home alone, or none of the above.
In this fascinating essay in the Atlantic, Nathan Jurgenson recounts the way photography changed the way people lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. For the first time, people didn’t simply look at the world around them and file the images in their memories. Instead, they began to look for potential photographs, images that could be captured, stored, and – most of all — shared.
This has been described as the ‘camera eye,’ and there’s no doubt that by now, we all have it. I am continually amazed at our eagerness to photograph (or videotape) rather than simply to see. In front of the most familiar landmarks here in DC, I see visitors whose entire encounter with the site is getting the right photo – as soon as they have it, they lose interest, turn and walk away, looking for the next shot.
It often occurs to me to say: there are thousands of photos of (say) the Capitol building available on the internet, many way better than the one you just took. But you had to take it.
The advent of digital photography has had an unmistakable impact, lowering the marginal cost of snapping photos has nearly to zero, causing many of us to view the world through camera viewfinders much of the time. A few weeks ago, at the august Metropolitan Opera in New York, there two rows in front of me, a woman pulled out her camera and filmed the occasional number, while the rest of us tried to ignore the un-ignorable glowing rectangle in her hands.
And it’s not just adults, by the way – many vacationing parents seem to have found that giving their children cameras to mess around with is an effective way to keep them happy when things risk getting ‘boring.’
It’s clear that the growing photo-mania isn’t driven just by people planning to pore over the photos and videos at home someday down the road; it’s mainly that social media have provided us with new ways to share what we see.
That’s where I’ll pick this up in the next post…