When I was in junior high I was obsessed with those plastic disposable drugstore cameras. As a Midwesterner, it was all about CVS, and I’d get my pictures developed in one hour the day after our dances because I couldn’t wait to see how they turned out. I’d get doubles made and give copies to my friends who looked especially fly, or as fly as Boy Meets World-loving 13-year-olds with prescription acne medication can look. I straight-up had a scrapbook. In which I scrapped with enthusiasm.
The tweens of the world no longer feel the rush of immediately smudging glossy photographs with sweaty hands, because traditional photo albums are dead. Murdered without remorse by Facebook and Instagram, with Snapchat pounding the nails into the coffin as I write this. A study commissioned by Samsung for the launch of its NX300 camera surveyed people in the U.K. to reveal that more than half of the people surveyed posted their photos online within a week, while only 23 percent still use traditional photo albums. And that number will likely continue to plummet as Millennials age and the less-socially wired people who continue to make bound photo albums die off.
While the nostalgic in you mind be weeping, it makes sense. Why shell out money on a camera and photo development if all of your friends can see and comment on the pictures you’re taking the second after you take them? Sure, you lose the whole photograph-as-tangible-object thing, but as more and more of our lives go digital, it’s less important to have a physical album. We don’t buy CDs, and many people prefer e-books to paperbacks, so it makes sense that photographs are no different. Plus, a lot of the pictures we took with traditional cameras turned out to be goofy-faced, intensely embarrassing, and probably even occasionally illegal, so it’s probably better that Snapchat helps ameliorate the desire to create a lasting monument to ever last drunken girls night selfie (even if you can potentially bring those photos and videos back from the dead with enough money and/or wherewithal). After all, people are taking insane amounts of Snaps a day, and without that outlet, some of those likely ridiculous photos would’ve wound up in a more permanent digital location.
But the death of traditional photo collections still makes me a little weepy, because thumbing through Facebook albums isn’t quite as fun as flipping through actual, real pages, even though the older albums are subject to color fading (why wait for color fading when you can just apply the 1979 filter via Instagram)? It’s less charming, but that’s not really enough to keep traditional photo albums around. This isn’t great news for all of those businesses that offer you ways to print your Instagram photos or turn your Facebook vacation albums into bound photobooks.
And sure, you might worry about the Internet going up in flames one day, but barring a global apocalypse that’s probably not going to happen – and there are plenty of services like Timehop that give you options to back up or simply relive your digital photography.
Even as a lover of all things old, outdated, and obsolete, I don’t bother to print my photos out anymore. Laziness and a guilty love of seeing people ‘like’ my pictures makes it way better to just throw photos up on Instagram and Facebook and call it a day. So while I will pour a little printer ink for photo albums, I’m not super sorry they’re dead.
[Photo credit: heiwa4126, Flickr]