Do you also feel overwhelmed by digital pictures?
It’s a trivial concern in the grand scheme of things, but since I got a smart phone several years ago and started snapping/clicking/pressing away, my phone–and then my laptop–has filled up with manymanymany shots of pretty much the same thing: my kids.
Specifically, kids in things–kids in hats, kids in face paint, kids in sports, kids in school plays. Since their birth, each iteration of the children doing something has been dutifully recorded and stored.
My digital pictures fall into three categories:
1. The Forced Smile.
Our kids are sick of having their picture taken. I always have my “camera” with me and photos are not just for formal occasions anymore–like birthdays and the prom–as when we were kids. My kids are asked to pose all the time. If you individually try to stop the shutter happiness, you’re the bad guy. Ever been that one mom at the ballet recital not holding your phone in front of your face? Bad Parent.
2. The Action Shots.
My kids have learned how to take frame-by-frame shots of an action, like sports photographers. Do I save the series of them somersaulting over the couch and make a flipbook of it, like those early films of a running horse? Is it worth the storage space?
3. Kid Selfies.
My kids steal the phone and take hundreds of pictures of themselves and their world. I end up with blurry faces, mooning shots and, I kid you not, pictures of the TV. When my kids are watching a show they like, they take pictures of it. We have reached the level of meta-media—a screen within a screen.
I don’t always have time to “back everything up” as the computer gurus admonish. And it’s a dangerous rabbit hole of Time Suck when I try to move them to print by creating picture books. These book sites seem designed to cause analysis paralysis. Each picture needs a caption, doesn’t it? And which picture of the five almost-identical ones to choose? How many pictures per page? What background should I choose? Which font? On and on, until there are manymanymany half-finished projects in my online file.
Which brings up my great fear: What if there’s a digital apocalypse and I lose all of my photos? If a childhood goes by unrecorded, did it even exist?
What should I do with all these pictures? Deleting works. But it also takes time, and what if, accidentally, in a rush, I delete that one shot that summed up their five-year-old self? Deleting feels unsentimental, too, but I have to gird myself against too much emotion. In the age of easy pictures, I must remind myself: Easy come, easy go.
Except maybe this one…
Virginia Woodruff runs Great Moments in Parenting. When she’s not taking pictures she’s being eaten by mosquitos in Austin, TX.