Disappearing Photos Tell No Tales

Monday May 29 is Memorial Day in the United States. While it has become, to many, an entitled day off to shop sales and organize a BBQ, the day (last Monday in May) was originally conceived and remains a day of remembrance for those who have given their lives in service to the USA.

Many countries, cities, fraternal organizations and religions have similar days of remembrance and reflection and so I decided to look at memories…not just memory as in digital…in light of the dichotomy of our times…nothing seems to go away…everything can theoretically go away and the ephemerality of sharing is the Digibabble justification for the creation of so much garbage content.

Now…don’t get me wrong – we always shared and always will share short-lived, transitory content — jokes, funny pictures, embarrassing stories, but the notion that we have entered an age in which remembrance is less important than a quick disappearing share is nonsense and indicative of a complete lack of human insight….in my book, par for the course for so many analysts.

Also, please don’t confuse the desire to delete mistakes, embarrassing gaffes, stupid behavior and a host of other non-critical, legal blunders, boo-boos and bloopers (See The New York Times: “Erasing Your Android Tracks Q. How do I delete the list of things I’ve looked for with the Google search engine on Android?”) from the public record with the desire to save and preserve memories of importance be they digital, analog or something else…. It ain’t even near the same!!!

On what do I base my thesis you ask?

Let’s start here with a business statistic that actually amazed me as I researched this subject:

According to The New York Times in December of last year, “Paper Calendars Endure Despite the Digital Age.”

The sales of appointment books and planners grew 10 percent from 2014-15 to 2015-16 to $342.7 million, and decorative and other calendars increased by 8 percent to $65 million in that time, according to figures from the NPD Group, a consumer research firm.

The consumer can customize a planner to fit his or her style with accessories, colors and even color code events and activities…That’s not something you can do on the standard phone calendar.

Who would have thunk?

Yet I also point out the continued and growing popularity of Moleskine and other similar brands of notebook in which a pen and ink device captures and records your every thought and nuance.

Another critical data point is the continued healthy growth of the photo printing business. The kind where you go online, upload your photos, create some kind of enduring memento, be it a single framed photo, a photo mug or a custom printed book…

New business like Photo&Go focus on Smart Phones.

While old reliables like Shutterfly continue to grow and have impressive sales and scale. According to a recent Shutterfly press release, “Full Year 2016 net revenues increased 7% year-over-year to $1.13 billion.”

Market intelligence company, SimilarWeb proves the point with photo printing website traffic data. One analyst shared:

Looking at desktop traffic YTD, we find a 13% increase in traffic when comparing Jan-April 2016 to Jan-April 2017.

Audiences are also becoming more engaged with the content, spending 29% more time (01:40 minutes) longer on the site compared to last.

SimilarWeb Shutterfly data

And, of course, my favorite example of all…the most famous share- what-you-want-it’s-deleted-in-seconds business pivots yet again:

The Verge reports, “Snapchat introduces Memories: a searchable, shareable archive of your snaps.”

At a time when its social networking rivals are racing to promote more real-time sharing, Snapchat is turning its attention to the past. The company today introduced Memories, a way of saving and sharing old snaps in a private archive inside the main app. It’s a living, social camera roll in which photos and videos can be organized, edited, and shared long after they are taken. The introduction of Memories represents a significant shift for the famously ephemeral Snapchat — and reflects the app’s growing status as the default camera for millions of users.

Clearly these guys know something…Digibabble millennial experts take note. And listen:

“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” Arthur M. Schlesinger

Whatever we do, whatever we discover or unleash, whatever breakthroughs we might achieve, all will be colored by our unbroken chain of human shared experiences going back to the dawn of time. To think otherwise is to pretend (as some do) that nothing existed before digital — a sad state of affairs for sure.

Bottom line? I’m off to a family wedding (E&B) and will revel in memories that were and new ones that we are creating, recording and sharing…and no doubt, one day, many generations from now will show up on whatever the then version of Ancestory.com will be.

What do you think?

One last thought.

I’m on a crusade to develop educational protocols that will teach proper digital behavior and critical thinking to limit the effect of False News and to generally lift our online conduct and manners including sharing and posting.

To that end, I realized, after reading the following article, that memory needs to be included:

A few months ago, Newsweek covered “The Story of Yolocaust, The Holocaust Memorial Selfie Project that Shocked and Vanished”  about the Berlin artist who overlaid selfie images taken at the Holocaust Memorial with real horrific images of starving prisoners in concentration camps:

As articles and comments popped up everywhere and opinion pieces evaluated the project’s merits and faults, emails arrived in Shapira’s inbox with requests for removal. Within a week, all 12 of the people featured on the site had gotten in touch, so the images disappeared one by one, until none were left. Shapira replaced the original webpage with a letter, describing the project he had launched but which can no longer be seen.

See images as they were (before disappearing) here.

I have great respect for the 12 people who got in touch with him….all millennials…a lesson in Remembrance…

And as the great Nobel Laureate said…


“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”  Elie Wiesel

Read the two quotes together and celebrate your memories!

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