Image Overload

Yesterday, I had a deep need to sit alone by the ocean and look at the water. Even though I live at ‘the coast’ – there isn’t really anywhere to do that nearby. So I got in my Vanagon and drove up to Haceta Head Lighthouse where I parked and looked out at the water. It was a rainy day again…sometimes it feels like the rain in Oregon this year will never stop…but even so, there were people coming and going – pulling in, looking, snapping a few pictures, and then going again. Most of them got out of the car for a few minutes at most, but a few were dedicated and spent more time finding nice shots. And there’s the thing – every one of them took photos either with their phone or with their camera. It’s a pretty spot and with the big bridge going over, the lighthouse, the little rock islands, the cliffs, the ocean, the beach, the river coming down – there are plenty of great photo moments to be had there. I don’t blame them – in fact – I took a couple of pictures too. Every person there took pictures. Every one (except for the little kids without cameras). It’s what we do.

I’m in the process of trying to sort my digital photo library. It’s no easy task. Over the past decade, I’ve had several external hard-drives that I’ve moved my photos to and from, a chromebook, a netbook, a laptop, a couple of digital cameras with memory cards, 6 phones with memory cards, and no shortage of great programs that were the previous solution to my photo organizing…I have an icloud account, a google drive account, and a flickr account as well as that google photos thing. I’m trying to get all my photos in one place and organized so I can enjoy them, share them, and preserve them.

I downloaded a little program to gather up all my photos – it did a search of my primary laptop and external hard-drive and gathered all the photos – unfortunately it has no way of knowing which are photos that matter and which do not. It found a quarter of a million photo files in a 20 minute search. Yes, 250,000 (give or take 5000). At first it felt hopeless, but then I realized that many of those files were duplicates that have been moved from machine to machine. Then I realized that many were photo files from websites I’ve built. Then I realized that there were quite a few I could get rid of. Over the past few days, I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to getting rid of the website files and the downloaded and duplicates (which happen when you move photos from machine to machine and drive to drive). I downloaded another little program that lists the duplicates and I’ve been deleting huge numbers of them. Unfortunately, early in this process I made the mistake of deleting a couple of files that had inadvertently had other folders dropped in them and I lost all of our family photos from 2013. I also learned that many devices use the same naming conventions and so you can’t just delete based on name (so long 2003) and that you need to find a program that looks at many factors. After days of work – I’m down to 58,000 photo files with approximately 10,000 duplicates. There are actually smart people who have created a business out of doing this sort of thing – digital organizing. They charge huge amounts of money but they probably don’t lose 2013 and 2003. So, I – and actually all of us – am drowning in digital images.

In the two hours I sat at the beach yesterday – there were probably 40 cars that came and went. Usually there were two people but sometimes there were four and infrequently there was one. So it’s a fair estimate to say 80 people. Most of them took 5-10 photos but some of them took a great many more. I watched people taking pictures of the other people taking pictures and since I was sitting in a scenic spot in a vehicle that most people feel a bit of nostalgia for – I was often in their photos. I think it is fair to estimate that I had my photo taken 50-100 times during the two hours I was contemplating the water. It sounds like a lot, but in truth, in 2016 a person living in the USA was caught on camera an average of 75 times per day. For a person in London that number jumped to 300 times per day. And, given that the rate of digital photos and surveillance cameras is still rising, that number is certainly rising.

I was particularly struck by something I noticed yesterday. People knew they were in a beautiful spot. They knew that there was something wonderful about being alive and in that particular place in that moment. I watched several people walk down the rocks in a bit of a daze, clutching their cameras, feeling the need to really do something. It’s my opinion, that what they needed to do was to just be. To be aware of actually being right there in that moment. To have a sense of actuality. To feel the mist of rain and the crash of the waves, to experience the cries of the gulls and the rumble of the ground. To sit and be present – for a moment. But ultimately, few of them seemed to do so – instead, they lifted their cameras or phones and clicked the shutter buttons. They saved the digital image – do a google search of haceta head and millions of images will come back to you. You can look at them all, but you will never get the feeling.

A Powerful Message

A few years ago, I was watching a very smart and well written show called Better Off Ted. It was a great show in general, but the moment I remember from it has all kinds of meaning. Ted is talking about the problems in life, with work, with politics, with relationships – the kind of things we all deal with and then he said something like “And when I get completely overwhelmed and nothing is going right and the world is about to end, there is only one thing I can do” and it cuts to a scene of him and his little daughter – he looks at her and says “I love you” and she looks up at him with worshipful eyes and says “I love you too Daddy”. It’s one of the truest moments in television as far as I’m concerned. I am very grateful I saw it because while I think every father knows it, it’s just good to have it clearly pointed out and to understand the truth of it. There is nothing that makes everything okay when the world is upside down and turned inside out than to know that you are doing right by your little girl. Doing right by my daughter makes it all worthwhile. I’m guessing that this is universal for parents and children, but one thing I know from watching Better Off Ted – I’m not the only father who feels the way Ted was written.

Reality TV and Social Media

I think it’s too bad that reality TV came before social media. Before there were social media stars, there were reality TV stars and unfortunately, they were mostly assholes who became stars because of their bad behavior – and I think they may have shaped the way social media stars went about getting the spotlight.

Imagine if social media had been an opportunity for kindness and altruism to be rewarded instead of just more assholes grubbing away for attention.

But maybe that’s just a fantasy. About a decade ago I started a website called NiceHuman – the idea was that people could submit stories about nice humans – they could nominate friends, family, community members, or just point out a story where a human was nice.

At the same time, I had a website called TerrorSuspect – guess which one got all the traffic? The nice human site got so much hatred spewn in the comments section and so little traffic (not to mention people taking the time to say that someone was a nice human) that eventually, I shut it down.

We play life these days like it’s a game of Survivor or like we are all in the Big Brother House. It makes sense in a way, we are on camera most of our lives now in one way or another and our society seems to reward bad behavior while at the same time decrying the bad behavior and rewarding more.

We’ve all become selfish assholes. Or maybe the camera has just cleared away the illusion that we weren’t always selfish assholes. Either way, you are on your own. I’ll see you at tribal council.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I’m pretty sure that’s a big part of what all of my negativity is. Although the torture of living in a town where I have to drive by a chainsaw statue of Trump in three different directions where the average age is 64 might be a part of it too. Either way, this winter has been brutal on the psyche. I need sunshine – sustained and never ending blue skies. I need to see signs of intelligent thought. I obviously need a vacation…it’s just not the sort of thing that gets handed out to people like me.