What Bugs Me About Flickr

My buddy Jorn’s daily livejournal Flickr stream lets me see some of the best stuff on Flikr without having to wade through all the crap. But it also serves to make me a little self-conscious about my digital photography skills and equipment, and to some extent my life.

It’s a lot like the celebrity effect: Because for many of us media stimulation competes with personal interaction both in terms of time and total impact, we come to expect everyone to be smart, funny and pretty at all times. With Flickr–especially with Jorn acting as a filter–it seems like everyone is constantly well-lit and having fun. I’ve been building up some pretty strong walls against this crap, starting in junior high (when, I think, most of us first consciously process the idea that other modes of expression and interaction might be more interesting than the ones we’re currently engaged in), but sometimes the shinier and happier than thou still get to me.

I suppose the logical fallacy here is in accepting Flickr as any more “real” than Hollywood, or for that matter the Internet. Because of the multiple layers of intent and filtration–who points the camera, who poses, how much setup was involved, which images were posted to Flikr, what Jorn chose to point my attention to–the experience is very much intermediated. Flikr is certainly not journalism, nor even chronicling. Taken in aggregate, it’s at best a chaotic, unintentional brand of entertainment. And if we know that, we’re probably safe, or at least free, just as we are when we drink the shot of tequila, accepting that it’s poison, but comfortable with the trade we’re making for a little pleasure.

Humans are notoriously poor witnesses under the best of circumstances–we know this about ourselves. And yet even in still frame, with the sound turned down, we’re inclined to believe that what we’re presented with is real. So I think we’re still tricked into real emotions when we look at something like Flickr–we both empathize and feel jealousy, experience the thrill and a little guilt. Voyeurism still feels voyeuristic–the good and the bad–even when we’re not sure what we’re seeing is real.

3 thoughts on “What Bugs Me About Flickr”

  1. We all filter reality in some way. Unless we’re surrendering to everything, we have to filter to accomplish anything. Unless we’re very strong, we filter what we can’t handle.Etc.

    I see Flickr as a celebration. Ordinary life is what there is when I’m not staring at *this* filter.

  2. As you intimate, the unspoken topic here is escapism. I too want Tony Soprano to go on ordering hits and Britney Spears to learn how to use a car seat. The important thing, I think, is to not allow these fictional characters–and even “real” people can often have their character fictionalized in its presentation to us–to encumber us with emotional baggage.

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