My whole life, I’ve enjoyed paging though my family’s photo albums. Each of those dusty albums contains so many fond memories:
- Candid shots of siblings in a hospital room, welcoming the newest addition to the family.
- 3×5’s documenting the many adventures we had traveling from state to state as our dad built churches and schools across the country.
- Evidence of all those awkward stages (complete with bulky glasses and embarrassing braces) that I can look back on and laugh, though it was no laughing matter at the time.
- Snapshots of family and friends we’ve long said “goodbye” to, while each day holding their memory close in our hearts.
- Fashions statements we’re glad are far behind us, and other styles that have made a comeback and are now bigger than ever.
These photographs are our visual history. Without them, many of these memories would be gone forever.
Things have changed drastically since those days. Technology has come leaps and bounds, and can be a really useful thing for preserving memories.
It can be a dangerous thing as well.
How many times have you pulled up a Facebook gallery on your phone in order to show someone that funny face your daughter started making last week, or the progress of your new kitchen makeover. Sure, it seems like everyone is online, which makes Facebook a great social platform for sharing the things that are important to us, and sharing them around the world in an instant. Social media isn’t, however, a dependable place to serve as a primary backup for these things. Not only does it compress the images and videos that you upload, destroying the quality in the process, but there is no guarantee that they will even be available tomorrow. Yes, that’s true, even for companies like Facebook.
I can’t begin to tell you how many images I had uploaded to MySpace (does anyone even remember MySpace!?). In June of 2006, MySpace was the most visited social networking site in the world, even surpassing Google as the most visited website in the United States. As Facebook gained more users, MySpace suffered and began redesigning in hopes of staying relevant. In doing so, they deleted (or “misplaced”) its users’ profiles, blogs, and, yes, images. All those images I uploaded from my old desktop back in my first apartment are gone because, being young and naive, I assumed I could use the largest social network in the world as a sort of online backup (loooooong before “the cloud”).
And speaking of the cloud, social media isn’t the only platform that might not be around tomorrow. If you have any online backups (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive), there is no guarantee. I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but big companies don’t care about you or your memories. They care about their wallets. Any of these companies that you trust with images of your son’s birth, or your last Christmas together as a family, would happily close down their sites tomorrow given the right amount of money. I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, and I’m certainly not saying your shouldn’t take advantage of backing up your digital files to the cloud. Please do! Just don’t put all your .jpeggs in one basket. All those MySpace images, messages, notes–everything–are gone. That old desktop of mine is history. I’ve been able to recover a few images from some of my old, corrupted camera cards, but a majority of them will never see the light of day again.
Did you know…
…the average lifespan of a hard drive is 3-5 years
…the average lifespan of a flash drive is 1-10 years
…the average lifespan of CDs, DVDs, and other optical media are 2-5 years
(not to mention it won’t be long before these formats are obsolete. Once again running the risk of showing my age, I have dozens of floppy disks in a box somewhere with images on them.)
But as for photos printed on archival paper, they will last 100+ years
There are as many pictures taken every two minutes as were taken throughout the entire 19th century.
Let that sink in for a moment.
What ends up happening to all these images? In ten+ years, most of them are likely going to end up in digital purgatory along with all those MySpace images if they aren’t printed now.
Go print these memories before they are lost forever.