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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Are Social Networking Sites Killing The Photo Album?

Will Social Network Sites Kill The Paper Photo Album? How Safe Are Your Pictures? Will Modern History Be Lost Forever?

Wow - isn't it strange how an discussion on angle of photography and social media that you have never even thought of crops up twice in two days. In this case, I was enduring my daily commute and had my camera with me as I wanted to firm up on an element of its functionality.

This prompted a conversation with the lady opposite who turned out to be a lapsed 35mm photographer who was now entering the digital world. At one point she said to me "You know, these days very few people print their photographs and I'm really worried for history and genealogy". Her point being, to which I readily agreed , was that so many people were posting their pictures on social networking sites rather than printing them that in years to come all that family and local history will be lost forever. 

There'll be no more digging through boxes or albums to show of pictures of old Uncle so and so or to look at the car someone had 30 years ago. That could all be gone.

So I was amazed when this article from the Paisley Daily Express titled 'Social networking sites could be consigning Buddies photo albums to history'
popped into my in box.

It relates a similar story about the so called 'Facebook' generation and quotes Liz McNamara, marketing director for as saying:

“This research reveals the real culture change there has been around the way we use and display our photographs.
“The switch to digital is almost universal and for the Facebook generation, paper pictures and albums are obsolete.”
The report also discusses how backing up images is of little concern to some so there is a far higher possibility that history really will be lost forever.

As someone who can add history to his list of interests I really find this quite scary. I always looked on today as being 'the history of tomorrow' and photography as being the ultimate archivist. It seems that this could no longer be true and it's something I find quite disturbing.

What are your thoughts? Do you print for posterity?


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  1. I have a drawer at home full of photos and negatives that I have had developed over the years and am often tempted to convert them all to digital and have the drawer space back! I have never been one for albums full of pics and so the move to digital was a welcomed one. I do print pictures but it will be one or two favourites for a frame, or an A4 collage of pics as a reminder of a holiday.

    As for backing things ups, I do back photos up to a storage disk and so I have copies. I think that posting them to websites and social sites is an even better back up as you have off-site storage too. If your house burns down at least records will still exist. Photo albums and negatives have no off-site back up.

    So maybe history is safer than it ever was...?

  2. Thanks Paula, I agree with all of your points and these are all good in the present.

    At some point in the future though when you're maybe too old to care about your social network sites or you've forgotten your passwords and cant be bothered to find them. Who will be collating the pictures then for your family history?

    You are right of course that these sites act as a backup in their own right but many people only keep a subset of their images in on-line albums.

    It is good you already have a local backup but if anyone loses their home copies through a technical or other catastrophic incident then a large percentage of the images may be gone for good if no off-site copy exists.

  3. I don't print much, but I back up my photos in more than one way, at home and off-site. I don't think most people are as obsessive about it as I am though...

  4. Hi Kat, Thanks for the comment. I think people do it well or not at all. From this report, lots of youngsters don't.