Meaningful photos have become scarce in today’s world. In 2015, the average American took 322 photos throughout the year, totaling up to 105 billion photos nationwide. With smartphones, tablets, digital cameras and other mobile devices, the number of pictures being taken per day is ascending. In an age where the amount of digital photos is increasing at such a fast rate, the amount of photos that are truly meaningful to us is decreasing drastically.
Before today’s technology made it possible for such a task to be completed at the click of a button, capturing a photograph was a much more complex process. For instance, there was no “deleting” a picture once it was taken, the flashbulb only worked one time and one time only, and of course, the picture was not immediately visible subsequent to being taken. From the evolution of the camera obscura to the polaroid camera to the digital camera, and finally to smartphones, the process of taking a photograph has lost its essence. The process of taking a photo used to be an entire event in itself. Families would get dressed up in their best clothes for one photo or portrait to be taken. The photo would be to mark a special occasion or significant event in one’s life.
Today, millions of millennials are taking selfies every day, photos and videos of funny moments in their lives, all things that would not necessarily be worth the hassle of taking a photo back in the 1800s. The smartphones of millennials contain hundreds of thousands of photos, which take up the majority of their storage space. Social media apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and VSCO are also encouraging people to record every moment of their lives. Whether it’s every single meal or snack that you eat or being a couch potato with friends on a hot summer day, the app promotes the idea of digitally recording every occasion, whether they’re significant or not, and posting it to your Snapchat “story.” In 50 years, we’ll look back into our old camera roll photos and see every single meal that we’ve eaten since we were 15 years old.
Although the number of pictures is immensely great, the problem is not that we have too many pictures. The problem is rather that because we have so many pictures, their meaning is becoming less significant to us. The plethora of digital photos that exist today lessen not only the meaning but also the purpose of a photo. Now, digital photos fail to remind us that the purpose of taking a photo is to commemorate an occasion. Instead, photos are taken for every occasion and some which we are even unable to recall. Our digital photo libraries are filled with thousands of photos that have to be organized into albums and events so we can remember when and where the photo was taken. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The digital age has allowed us to be able to reminisce in moments with videos and photos. However, unless the occasion is as memorable as one’s wedding day or graduation, the photos are not truly as meaningful as they once were prior to the existence of digital photos. When you have so much of one thing, you tend to not appreciate its value as much as you would when you had less.