Digital cameras, a time capsule dug up

Caroline Hendrix, Opinions Editor

One of the first social media platforms to come about was Six Degrees, which was created in 1997 with the primary goal of connecting its users. People could upload a profile photo and chat with others on a platform set out to create a network that defied space and time. 

Somewhere along the way, we reprioritized. Taking photos for social media has become more about showing ourselves off rather than connecting with others. New apps arose that allowed us to edit certain aspects of ourselves and surroundings to portray a specific curated version of ourselves. We have become consumed by Facetune, AirBrush and caption generators. I’ve seen this in myself and my friends. The fun has been stripped out of social media. We have slowly become marketers of ourselves who seek engagement and validation rather than connection. 

My description of the stress associated with posting on social media might seem exaggerated to some. But I assure you that people care an extreme amount about their online image. The process of sharing photos has evolved in a way that has forgotten social media’s initial goal of developing relationships online. 

We’ve ruined it. But, it is not beyond repair. The reemergence of digital and disposable cameras shows a wave of people who want to get back to the way things were. 

I think that this is a step in the right direction because it shows a desire to step back from the well-oiled machine that we have created for posting pictures to social media. 

There is something to be said about taking pictures on the same camera during my senior year of college that still has photos on it of me opening presents on my eleventh birthday. The digital camera is a time capsule that provides a sense of nostalgia that I did not realize was needed. 

This comeback may have to do with people in their early 20s clinging on to parts of their childhood as they maneuver adulthood. BBC theorizes a “natural cycle” of this age group feeling a sense of nostalgia and trying to get back to the best parts of their youth. The reemergence of digital and disposable cameras seems to be the outcome of our nostalgia, our last efforts to stay young forever. 

Digital cameras also physically separate the photo-taking from the phone by putting them on different devices. Moreover, when you take a photo on your digital or disposable camera, you have to upload it somehow to your laptop or phone. With your phone’s camera on the other hand, the photo will appear immediately and can be uploaded to most apps in a matter of seconds. Adding another step between taking photos and uploading them to social media removes a layer of stress. Instead of thinking about adding a picture to one’s Instagram Story, they can be a little more in the now.

25 year old Katie Glasgow tells BBC, “it looks like memories, because it’s blurry and imperfect. It looks more like how we remember things.” I agree with Katie that the quality of digital cameras is vastly different from the ones we usually use on our phones. Over the past decade, the quality of phone cameras has advanced dramatically. The quality has gotten so good that some television shows are even filmed on them, and I cannot tell the difference between the phone camera on one show and a video camera on another. 

But is increasing quality actually better for us? For photographers and filmmakers alike, I would say yes. But for the average college student who wants to capture memories, quality is not that important. In some cases, it has even acted as a detriment where increasing quality shows imperfections that people would rather not post online. So if digital cameras do not pick up on every little detail, it might foster more authenticity because people might be less inclined to edit their photos. What matters most is capturing memories, as Katie explains, and digital cameras seem to do just that while taking away some of the stress we have built up around social media. 

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