Facebook Photos – Have we closed the book on the family album?

Something that’s been on my mind lately is the way Facebook photo albums have replaced those old dusty leather bound books that used to be in houses everywhere… There’s no doubt that the ease in which we can share photos on Facebook has made it easier for us to connect our lives with those of friends and family but have we lost something in the process? And more concerning still who else are we sharing our memories with? It seems that the photos we upload to Facebook are Facebook photos in more ways than one!

One of the first things you’re urged to do when you join Facebook is upload a profile picture – Putting a face to our name before we add friends or update our status seems like a no brainer. After all, Facebook operates just like society doesn’t it? When we meet someone for the first time we smile and introduce ourselves and hopefully they do the same. It’s the first step in a chain of associations starting with face and name and extending to opinions they hold and experiences shared as we get to know them better. This is a gradual process, and we develop trust over the course of it. Most of the friends you add in the next step of the Facebook profile building experience will be the end result of the trust building exercise of a life shared. So, just as you did all those years before, you tentatively send your feelers out there with a name and smiling face in the hope that they really do l;ike you after all!

The way this all works seems almost painfully innocent – even garishly simple… It wouldn’t work like this in the real world…

You couldn’t just jump out of a bush and ask someone to be your friend whilst offering nothing more than a sheet of paper emblazoned with ‘accept’ and ‘decline’ boxes and a cheesy grin. If you actually did that past the age of six you’d be profiled as unpredictable and ultimately untrustworthy. Not so in the romantic cyber world of Facebook; where we dive into social interactions armed with a carefully curated profile of information we’ve chosen to share and against which we will be judged. This seems strange considering the people we’re adding are people we know already and who often know more about us than we share on our Facebook page. Indeed Facebook seems structured around this assumption. We search friends who’s names we already know, make sure we have the right person by seeing their profile picture and click ‘add’ and then get to limit how much they see. It’s the name / face combination that tells us we can trust them, that helps us take the leap from real world friendship to cyber pals! We feel confident around the people we know and in our rush to begin networking with them there’s a very good chance that we skip over Facebook’s privacy policy, including their policy on photographs. Facebook’s terms of service is now over 1500 words, an extraordinarily tedious task for the anyone to deal with… So we forget (perhaps we even choose to!) that there’s someone else in the room with us -In fact we’re not even in our own house to begin with!

Facebook, much like it’s creator Mark Zuckerberg, is painfully self aware. Strange then that the effect it’s had on our world is to whittle away self awareness to the point that we almost don’t care who’s being made aware of us…
We are creating a profile through which we will be profiled but who’s book are these profiles going into exactly? The answer is emphatically Facebook’s own and they do with it as they please, making a lot of money in the process. I’m not saying it’s time to get out the tin foil hats but is it possible that our sense of self and how we share ourselves with others has been dangerously altered by social media? Whether or not this is intentional on the part of networks like Facebook isn’t as important as the answer, which is a resounding ‘Yes!’

How does this influence the way we view ourselves and will be viewed in the future? Tune in over the coming weeks as the team at Berry Flash explore the indelible effect that social media networking has had on contemporary culture and how our expectations of ourselves and photography have changed as a result…

Starting with the Selfie!

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