Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 01.01.10
Stanstead, Quebec


2009: Photo finish

For weeks, streams of magazines and gobs of blogs have been trotting out their best-ofs for the decade: Best Film, Best Album, Best Pandemic.

Then there are the earnest efforts to define the decade. Should we call it the iDecade? The MillenniNumb? The MillenniDumb?

Others try to distill the entire decade into one representative cultural icon. (My money's on SpongeBob SquarePants.)

Then there are those guys. You know those guys, the ones who point out that the end of the decade isn't 2009 but actually the end of 2010, since you start counting at "1" not "0," stupid! When they refer to the past "decade," those guys make little air quotes with their fingers. Those guys can be jerks.

In most of these retrospectives, much has been made about the self-obsessed rise of MySpace and its, like, totally super-friendly and stalker-licious offspring Facebook.

One aspect that's been overlooked, however, and one that will have a significant future impact: cheap digital photography. And this raises a concern. As we enter the new decade (look at me using air quotes!), we really must take the cameras away from the kids.

Back in the days of film photography (gather round, now, young 'uns...), people used discretion when taking pictures. With only 24 shots to a roll, they had to ask themselves, "Is a photo of my foot truly film-worthy?" Or, "Do I really need a photo of myself when I could remind myself of how stunningly good looking I am simply by passing a mirror?"

The 1990s saw the introduction of the digital camera. These first cameras were a lot like the original portable phones -- the size of a loaf of bread and useful for one thing only, namely showing off to your friends.

Over the past ten years or so, cameras have become smaller and cheaper and their memory capacity larger. If you want to, you can take 70 photos of your foot and still have room for 50 photos of your cat.

Or -- wait! -- you can forget the foot and the cat and take 120 photos of the most fascinating, wonderful, attention-starved, validation-seeking subject in, like, the whole wide werrr-ald: yourself!

So it began. The arm's-length self-portrait. Surely you've seen it. Arm stretched out, hand pointing the camera back at the photographer's face. Click. Here's me. Here's me and my pal Serena. Here's me and my BFF Celina. Here's me and Celina and Serena snubbing Sabrina.

On its face, taking dozens of photos of yourself is fine. We love to see ourselves, and sometimes it requires a series of shots to find one you like -- this one may be too dark, this one too hungover. In the past, normal people would filter out the worst and save only those that made them look smouldering hot... or possibly sleepy, depending on who you asked.

But the adolescents of the MilleniDuh are not normal people. They have no filters. They are taking hundreds of photos, yes, mostly of themselves, yes, and posting all of them on that great enabler, Facebook. Yes, yes, yes.

Here's me and my cool haircut.

Here's me and my cool haircut from the left.

Here's me and my cool haircut with sunglasses.

Here's me and my cool haircut out of focus.

Here's me and my cool haircut and my jerk little brother stuck his hand in the way but I uploaded it anyway.


So what's the big deal? It's not like they're going to break the Internet. And it's no secret that modesty is dead and that every aspect of our lives is Twitter fodder. I'm not even especially worried that their facial expressions are going to be so practiced and contrived that they'll walk through life looking like runway models, which will be pretty silly behind the cash at McDonald's.

I'm concerned about their future job prospects.

Here's me with my new boss.

Here's me meeting a client.

Here's me uploading Facebook photos at work.

Here's me in the unemployment line.

It comes down to this: If they're too busy taking and uploading photos to hold down a job, how are they going to take care of you and me when we're old?