Digital Photos = Digital Dilemma Part II

In Patagonia I used my tablet to take all my pictures. At first it felt awkward because of the size, but I managed.  I usually carried it by tucking it under my arm during hikes or by placing it in my backpack.  Several months ago I invested in an OtterBox to protect my tablet, which adds heft and weight to the device, but left me feeling totally fearless about snapping pics in the rain, on boat rides, and other extreme conditions.

Totally fearless with the OtterBox in rain, wind, and sea spray.

Totally fearless with the OtterBox in rain, wind, and sea spray.

I was travelling with a group and observed the different ways people were taking pictures.  Everybody used a smartphone and/or a camera. Although many of the travellers had tablets, I was the only one using it to take photos.

For over two weeks my main activities consisted of seeing spectacular, stunning things and trying to document them.  After a day or two, I noticed that digital photos present four main challenges:

Experiencing vs. Documenting – I often found myself torn between wanting to be fully immersed in my surroundings with all my senses and no tablet, or to capture the moment in images.  I started thinking about why I didn’t feel the same way with pre-digital cameras.  When using older cameras, film was expensive so I was more judicious about where and when I would take pictures.  For example I would wait to reach the viewpoint to take pictures rather than snapping them along the way as I do now with the tablet. When I reached the viewpoint I would take a few pictures, not dozens, the way I can so easily with a digital camera/device.

Volume – It is easy to accumulate large amounts of pictures in a short period of time.

Multi-formats  – Cameras/devices take video and images, both of which pose slightly different challenges for organizing.

Synchronization – As I mentioned earlier, most people used a combination of devices to capture images, all of which indicates the need to consolidate them in one place.  Some people used a smartphone instead of a camera because it facilitated sharing photos, via a wi-fi or cellular connection.  Additionally the smartphone could tag the image with geolocation data making it easier to keep track of where the picture was taken.

Stay tuned as I figure out the dilemmas. I’m especially interested in the synchronization bit.

In the meantime, here’s another pic to enjoy:

Parent penguin feeding a large chick.

Parent penguin feeding a large chick.

Patagonia: The Ride to the Perito Moreno Glacier

I just returned from a trip to Patagonia, sometimes referred to as “the end of the world.” As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so this week’s post will be a bit longer than usual. Enjoy!

One of the many stunning viewpoint we stopped at to take pictures.

One of the many stunning viewpoints we stopped at to take pictures.


Same viewpoint different direction.

Same viewpoint different direction.

Stopped at a ranch house to use the banos.  Look closely for the horses and wild pink flamingos in the distance.

Stopped at a ranch house to use the banos. Look closely for the horses and wild pink flamingos on the left.

A rare eagle spotting just outside to the park entrance to see the Perito Moreno Glacier.
A rare eagle spotting just outside the park entrance of the Perito Moreno Glacier.


A Tale of 19 Pillowcases

A couple months ago I did a massive purge in my apartment. It was interesting for me to see what types of clutter I was accumulating and where it ended up in my place.  I have to confess that I was surprised at my collection of pillowcases carefully tucked away in the linen closet. Although I do get rid of things regularly as part of my never-ending quest to be a minimalist, somehow the pillowcases had been ignored for a long time.  This is how I ended up with 19 of them.

8 pairs of pillowcases and three random singles.

8 pairs of pillowcases and three random singles.

Here are some quick facts about the situation. I own 3 pillows. Two of the pillows are tempurpedic and will only fit in one pair of pillowcases. This means that I have 17 pillowcases for my one remaining normal pillow.  I do realize that this is a distinctly  first-world problem, but it made me think of the bigger implications of what was going on.

  1. I have random, and somewhat useless, accumulations of things that are not benefitting me.
  2. These random and somewhat useless things were escaping detection and therefore not being purged.
  3. I couldn’t adequately explain where it all came from.

Doing a massive purge of the things in my apartment was cathartic, but I quickly realized how difficult this task would be to replicate with my digital items.  Once stuff is digital it’s a lot easier to accumulate and it often escapes detection a lot longer. And then I just don’t care as much because the end result is not always that obvious or gratifying.

When I cleaned out my apartment I could visibly see more space and less piles of clutter in the corners.  This made me feel positive and productive.  But to spend time performing the same type of cleanup with my digital items just doesn’t feel the same. Sure it’s nice to have everything look neat on my desktop and be easily retrievable, but that’s how most of my stuff is anyway.  I guess it doesn’t feel the same because the space created isn’t visible and doesn’t matter since storage is so cheap.

As for the pillowcases, I kept 6 pairs, 4 of which belonged with sheet sets, 1 special pair for the tempurpedic pillows, and 1 extra set because I liked it. The remaining 7 were all donated.


Given my profession and personality, I’m a bit surprised at myself for having so many uncategorized posts and only 1 keyword (or tag), zombie.  When I started The Deletist, I decided that the blog would be my creative space where I could write freely without judging myself.  In keeping alignment with this goal, I didn’t want to create hierarchical categories before I knew what I would want to write about.  I felt it might make me feel restricted in some way.  Nor could I just haphazardly start creating categories without a sense of the whole vision.

A proper classification scheme, in this case my hierarchical blog categories, follow certain rules.  I can’t properly create a sustainable scheme without following the rules or knowing the subjects I will choose to write about.

Some terms felt really obvious to me, such as Social Media, and then nesting specific social media apps underneath. But I can already see where my adhoc structure will fail me if I ever blog about Google+, which could rightfully belong underneath Google and Social Media.  A further source of frustration for me was coming up with categories to describe the many posts I have about deletion, destruction, and purging.  Is this really a category?  It feels more like an action than a category.

This is a perfect example of how keywords could be really useful, if I had more than one.  They can be a terrific way to start developing defined categories by looking for common terms and naturally developing patterns.  I don’t really have any excuse for not assigning keywords other than that it just escaped my radar.

I think my own dilemmas highlight some common challenges people have in organizing their documents and information. It’s difficult to develop an organizational method for items without first understanding what is there or knowing what will be created in the future.  And since nobody can predict the future, it becomes really challenging to create a scheme that will address everything created at that moment, but still be flexible and fluid enough to accommodate anything new.

I have to confess that after I finished the draft of this blog, I decided to add a new category, “deletion”, which took care of many previously uncategorized postings.  Is that cheating? I’m not sure, but I decided to be a bit more creative and less judgemental with my blog categories for the moment.  At some point I’ll get bothered enough and just redo everything.

Facebook Stalker

My friends recently informed me that I’m a Facebook stalker.  Imagine my shock since I hardly use it! When I login to Facebook I occasionally look at things such as comments, pictures, and articles, that my friends have posted.  That’s what Facebook is there for, right?  To share everything good, sweet, or funny that happens.  However, when I go in and look, I never leave comments or “like” anything, so this, according to my friends, is what makes me a FB stalker.  I’ve read a lot of articles about Twitter etiquette, but I never heard anything about FB etiquette requiring people viewing profiles to leave comments or “likes” behind.  In my defense, I think if people are uncomfortable having their lives on display, they shouldn’t post it online where it’s publicly available.

On FB it’s quite common for people to state their relationship status such as “single” or “in a relationship with…” on their profile page.  However, when a breakup happens, people are now required to update the status in addition to dealing with the split.  I recently read an article instructing people on how to update their FB relationship status without sending out a notification to friends or having it posted on a timeline.

What’s the point of taking the extra steps?  Isn’t FB for sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly?  If somebody just went through a breakup, wouldn’t s/he want people to know to get support?  If the relationship status was being changed from “single” to “in a relationship”, would people also be interested in keeping this information from being posted?

It’s interesting to reflect on the message that’s subtly being conveyed.  It’s fine to share things that are considered good, fun, or exciting, but when something perceived as negative happens, like a breakup, then the same rules of sharing don’t apply.

One of the main reasons for using social media is to share and disseminate information to large groups of people.  Yet, it often seems that we are only supposed to share things that make our lives look desirable or enviable.  Most social media applications will only allow you to “like” or “favorite” something, but very few of them actually allow you to dislike something.  And sometimes the interpretation can be pretty odd. People will often “like” something as a way of showing support (or maybe just to prove that they read it to avoid “FB stalker” status), but what if the “like” is for something really awkward like a funeral?

On Display 24/7

I think part of the reason why I don’t engage with social media more is because I always feel horribly self-conscious about posting things publicly and leaving a trail behind.  I strive to be a minimalist and this includes creating casual, random content on social media that lingers around. To me, this seems contrary to my own communication habits.  As an extrovert, I’m accustomed to speaking and then thinking about what I said after, and sometimes for a very long time after if my filter wasn’t on.  When posting on social media, or even on this blog, I agonize before publishing anything because I know that it’s on display and will likely be retained for a longer period than my comfort level would like.

I’ve seen a big difference in my daily interactions with other humans and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because of all the electronic communication.  When interacting with another human digitally, via texting, email, social media, etc., a lot of elements are missing such as facial cues, body language, tone, and inflection.  It’s just not possible to replace all of these physical elements with emoticons, punctuation, and italicized, or bolded, text.  So now when I communicate with people face-to-face, I notice they don’t like to make eye contact as often, the attention span is shorter and there’s a heightened sense of awkwardness about the whole affair.

I also notice people hanging out together and not talking because they’re all on their devices.  I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re all having a conversation through texting or IMing, even though they’re in close proximity to one another.  Communicating digitally affords a person the time and space to think and reflect about what s/he wants to say before hitting the send button.  It means responses can be carefully crafted to sound witty, cool, intelligent, or insert adjective here, all the time.  I don’t know about anybody else, but that sounds like a lot of pressure to me.

I’m a talker by nature, as exemplified by my extroverted personality.  I might not always say the most appropriate things, or have the wittiest, coolest responses to everything, but my words are authentic.  And it’s not recorded, for the most part, so I don’t feel self-conscious because I can say what I need to say without leaving a digital trail behind me.