One of my posts recently went sort of viral on Tumblr. It's been shared over 100,000 times since I added my comment, and I've really been surprised by the response I got to it. I decided to re-post it here.
As a history buff, I approve of “selfie culture.” We are the most visually documented generation of all time. When a person takes a selfie, they’re telling the future a story about a moment in time. Their clothing, their makeup, their hairstyle, their accessories, their pose, their background environment… Even the weather on a particular day! Every bit of that information tells a rich tale about our world.
What I wouldn’t give to have an album of Anne Boleyn’s selfies, or even just candid shots of random courtiers. I would pour over every image, as scholars do with the few paintings we have, and make guesses about their world based on items in the background, little quirks of fashion, and the relationships of people in the image.
Every day, we modern folks create a treasure-trove of information for future scholars. We never know what tiny, inconsequential detail captured by a lens will unlock a secret for a researcher. When we record ourselves, we record our culture. We write letters to the future every day. Our humor, our taboos, our social movements, even our memes. (Don’t think for a moment there won’t be a scholar one day who writes a very ponderous tome on Tumblr memes.) Anyone who scoffs and thinks they can determine what scholars of the future will find important is deluding themselves.
I once saw a Victorian picture of a young woman. She was formally posed and unsmiling. But written on the back was a small verse. “Those in the future, look upon this, and know in this moment, I was happy.” That always haunted me. So, yes, I like looking upon your images today and knowing you’re happy in a particular moment. (After all, that’s what life is, a series of moments.) Capture them. Remember them. Smile when you look back on them. And know that someday, your message may touch someone you’ll never meet.