Or, How To Perform an Exorcism on your iPhone
i loved this! i have been thinking lots about the curation of the photos we post on social media-- our motives behind their selection, and then how they are received and interpreted by viewers who lack any knowledge of the setting/context of the image. while a photo can conjure memories and emotions for the taker, it holds little meaning for the detached social media viewer. like you pointed out, photos dull our experiences down to a two-dimensional plane-- objects, props. for any viewer other than the photographer themselves, a photo's meaning is limited to assumptions made based on visual information. not to mention, we excessively curate the photos we post online; they are the building blocks of our superficial publicized selves, and hold the pressure of painting us as likable and interesting to our followers. this usually results in drastic misinterpretation of who we actually are... photos just can't convey the full complexity and subjectivity of our beings and experiences! thanks for this beautifully articulate piece - it's making me consider what i'm losing each time i remove myself from an experience to take a photo.
So spot on and articulate, as always. I am fortunate not to have any relationship in my past traumatizing enough to compel its total mental/digital deletion. But I grapple with these questions regularly and have yet to come to a conclusion / practice which feels comfortable to me. Holding on to so many mundane and significant instants of my life, and being able to return to them at any point - to drop into the indulgent, unproductive narrative of my "Past Selves", often with both wistfulness and wonder, seems unhealthy and makes me feel queasy. But stopping the ongoing documentation doesn't strike me as an option I will realistically take on. Much to think about ...
This is so beautifully written. I am someone who almost obsessively documents every part of my life. I have my pictures backed up to my Google Photos, my middle school assignments are still on some drive somewhere, and I have most of my writing on a Drive. A while ago, I went through all of them and filtered and categorized them properly. I like to say that I do it because I have a poor memory (and I do), and I would like to look back on them years later (and I would, despite cringing).
But I must admit embarrassingly that there is an exhibitionist element to it. I sometimes imagine dying and having my files leaked, and people would read my writing and be fascinated that there was a whole person behind the person. My diary is backed up online and it's filled with some of the most personal and painful writing in it; I would be horrified at anyone reading it, and yet sometimes I find myself penning down entries where I imagine other people reading and quoting and agreeing with me. I find myself curating a work that is not supposed to be read by anyone else, and it impacts what I dare to put down, what I dare to archive.
I don't know if it is the fear of being forgotten, or the desire to matter, to reach out into someone else and take root. I don't know if this almost Truman Show-like phenomenon is only possible because of our digital age of entertainment overexposure, to feel like you must completely dissect (or as you said, taxidermy) yourself to justify your existence. To scream: but I have things to say! I matter! The fear of being forgotten, or worse, misunderstood.
Sometimes I go through my old pictures and I try to remember how I felt at the moment, the person I was at that point. And I can't. Perhaps my backups are not to preserve a memory, perhaps it's more of a mummification. Perhaps it's a cast with all the vulnerable parts removed and polished with gold.
First piece I've read by you, and I was immediately hooked. The photography = taxidermy concept really struck me and the context you put it within our everyday lives carrying our phones is so profound. I'm looking forward to reading more! <3
The only time I’ve systematically deleted photos from my camera roll was when a manipulative ex asked me to because he couldn’t accept the fact that I had evidence of lovers before him. I’m not usually in this habit because I like the idea of my pictures as a little time capsule... though I think I prefer your idea of putting them on a hard drive so I don’t wake up and wonder which random period of my life my phone is going to confront me with that day. In love with your writing as always.
well said!! i hoard photos because i get worried about forgetting things, but i’d probably be better off letting go many of them. i think it’s so fascinating how documentation shapes our perception of everything around us. i personally had to delete instagram off my phone and delete any personal pictures off my page. i was sick of trying to make things pretty. now it’s just a platform for my art. however, a lot of my issues regarding social media presence also revolve around being cyberstalked in the past.
When will tech companies protect the interests of people who would not like to be reminded of their past under absolutely any circumstances?? 😤 (jk) Beautifully written piece. I also appreciated the reminder that phones literally hold weight. I’ve thought of my phone as a museum, but I’m realizing it’s also an appendage. How much more weight can it carry before I feel dragged down? Will I even notice? Has it happened already?
Also curious to see where you stand. Do you delete the photos off of social media? Off your camera roll? Do you do it the moment of the breakup? Before? A year later?
What an amazing rollercoaster of realisations. I grew up before phones nd social media, and I rarely look at my physical photos. I get daily photo groupings too, and I pay for it because I really like seeing my life, because it's not something I've done my whole life, it's new. I think the pros outweigh the cons on this one.
" ...desperate to feel wanted by someone closed off, to pry them open with my teeth and bitten-down fingernails like the last, most difficult pistachio. He wanted someone to pry for him, someone he could abandon with cruelty and the confidence they’d return, to feel like he was worth prying for. I was burning mixtapes for him in the radio station office. He missed my birthday." *slowly nodding in the corner.
Love your writing style and this was so interesting to read!