Kin Lane

My Photos Feel Like An Emotional Trap

Like most people, I have a lot of digital photos. I have almost two decades worth of digital photos, spanning two of my marriages, several other family member marriages, and the entire life of my kid. I store my photos across Flickr, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, and Amazon. I’ve recently downloaded them all, separate out the videos (I will deal with separately), and began the process of organizing them. It hasn’t been easy to unwind this mess.

As I’m putting into folders, renaming, and running a deduplication on, I’m thinking about what an emotional trap digital photography is. There is no way I can ever enjoy all of these photos, and there is no real reason to keep all of them around. It almost seems like an impossible task for me to ever clean them up. It almost feels like this is this way by design. Just so that I can be sold the next solution to my emotional trap, which ultimately will just become the next layer of this mess.

Hoarding zipped up folders of images, and stashes of different overlapping waves of images within whatever free service I upload them, feels like something that is festering, and needs attention—-pushing me to ask some hard questions about the photo dimension of my digital self:

  • Why do I take so many photos?
  • Why do I neglect organizing and managing my photos?
  • Why do I allow my photos to be spread across so many disparate online locations?
  • Why do I allow so many emotional attachments to even exist in the first place?
  • Why do I let bundles of unusable photos to exist in the corners?

I don’t have good answers to a lot of this. I think it comes down to many emotional factors, most of which are commercial in origin (buying camera gadgets), while others are more on the insecure and narcissistic ends of the spectrum. Honestly looking at the shear volume of photos I took after my divorce, during the time spent with my kid-boy, was I insecure about something! A condition in which Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google sure helped exploit.

This isn’t healthy. Having this many images, each with their own particular emotional attachment isn’t good for me. It has to be pruned. It has be cleaned up. It cannot be allowed to continue in the future. My image mess always makes me think of stories of old native Americans declining to have their picture take for fear of stealing their souls. Except, we do not have any respect for our digital soul, and we are perfectly happy selling it to the highest bidder, feeding our insecurities, over and over, until we are stretched out across the web, for everyone to gawk at.

I’ve cleaned up my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts significantly over the last couple of years. The recent acquisition of Flickr forced me to download my history there. Now I just need to clean out the storage units I have in Amazon, Google, and Dropbox. Once I have things de-duped, cleaned up, and organized, I will find one place to put them, so that I can use them, and then find one place to zip up and back them up in case my plan A fails on me. I will establish a strategy for being thoughtful about what photos I take, and how I clean them up and organize them in real time–helping ensure this will not happen again.

I feel like I have a lot more processing to do around the illness that digital photos introduce into my life. It isn’t just the number of photos, it is the many places where I put them. It is the performance I do with them online each day, across many web properties—mine, and other 3rd parties. It is unacceptable that I don’t take better care of digital self, curating, cleaning, organizing and being more thoughtful about the photos I produce, keep, or let disappear. It means for a healthier, saner, happier me, but it also reduces the vector for technology companies to get their hooks in me with their FREE storage, easy sharing, and other ways in which they monetize my digital self, and extract value from my daily behavioral exhaust.