The View of a Generation?

If you spend even minimal time on social media or social networking sites you've undoubtedly seen scores of self portraits like the one of me here. Spend about 16.3 seconds on MySpace and you'll find plenty of these.

My wife and I were recently eating dinner at Panera Bread and saw a girl sitting in a booth by herself snapping pictures of herself just like this. Panera has Wi-Fi so it's a natural spot for web saavy people to eat, hang out, and apparently snap pictures of themselves. Just today I was driving through Brentwood and saw some teenagers hanging out the side of a car taking pictures of themselves like this too.

I've come to a conclusion about these images: they are a picture of an entire generation. Think about it...if you've never taken a picture like this (particularly for the purpose of putting it online) you're missing an entire movement in the way people are relating to each other. There's certainly nothing special about the pictures themselves, but if you've got a picture like this it's a symbol that you're "in" on the new wave of relational networking. It's like this self-shot-picture phenomenon is a mark of a generation like poodle skirts and leg warmers.

The point here is simply this...there's a lot of talk about the adoption of technology, but there seems to be less talk about the culture woven throughout the technology. These images merely represent a slice of the culture. To understand the technology thoroughly we have to look to the culture in which it's being adopted. For now, maybe a picture is not worth a thousand words but instead a thousand pictures are a glimpse of an entire generation.


Heather Y said...

I tease our daughter about pics like those. She and her friends like them to be in black and white and from above angles. They also like to take pictures of their shadows on the ground (usually striking a pose or throwing gang hand signs as a joke). Some will absolutely not smile - I guess it's not cool. She has a good eye, (but maybe they all do)- so we are encouraging her, (with Photoshop, etc.). This is not cool I guess because she says they are just pictures...she doesn't want to be a photographer. I'm glad to see someone else is noticing the trend.

Bill Seaver said...

Thanks Heather. Saw the picture on your site about your daughter just as you describe. She fits the mold perfectly!

Interesting thing about these types of pictures. They're taken with the intent to not simply show a person is visually (like from a recognition standpoint), rather they're taken for the very purpose of letting everyone know what they're about, what type of personality they have, their style, interests, etc.