The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

“Where Will All the Instagrams Go?” Or, “The Loss of Visual Poetry.”

Over the last twenty years, we’ve all seen the massive increase in digital photography. Originally, we just stored them on SD cards, or on a file in our computer, or some external HD that we hoped to never lose. The dusty photo albums that we used to cherish, were tossed in a closet somewhere, because really, who was developing those negatives anymore – hell, who was taking photos on a film camera? Unless you were an art student, or an emerging hipster, or someone who simply refused to migrate over to the new world of digital whatever, you probably snapped a photo on your device, and uploaded it to whatever social networking site you were using at the moment. Then, something happened: the network you loved so much just disappeared.

If you’re older than 20, you probably remember the MySpace days (As a quick aside, I actually had to look up “MySpace” on google to make sure that’s what it was called. For some reason, it didn’t feel quite right). We all uploaded thousands of photos and words, and pretended to be friends with Tom and 20,000 other people. But one day, a couple of years ago, Justin Timberlake bought the struggling MySpace, and something started to change. Our profiles started to disappear, and while no one really used the site anymore, it became apparent that as our profiles were going away, and the site was changing, and we were struggling to remember our long forgotten passwords, we were losing every memory we had from those years. I mean, why save the photos anywhere other than MySpace? It was never going to go away. It was supposed to be this amazing network to bring us all together. And then there was Facebook, so no one cared about MySpace anymore.

And then there was Twitter.

And then there was Instagram.

And then there was Kik.

And then there was Snapchat.

And then….

And then…

And then…

One of the things I love most about my grandparents, and parents, and generations before them, is that they all took real photos, and they put them, carefully arranged, in photo albums that could be passed along for generations to come. I keep these on my shelf, and I look at them every few months, always discovering new people, or new clothes, or weird signs, or a family trait that I hadn’t seen prior. Unfortunately, not many people still head to their local drug store to develop film anymore. So, what happens when Instagram goes away, and Facebook closes up shop, and Twitter begins to delete their backlog of information. These are all the poetic virtual postcards of our current generation, but it feels like we’re all just throwing them into a fire every time we post something online. I’m great about backing everything up to my personal computer, and maybe a cloud account, but eventually I’ll get a new computer, and eventually my Amazon Cloud and iCloud accounts won’t translate into whatever technology comes next.

I’m all for new technology. I love my smart phone, and I’m an avid twitter ( @poetryquestion ) and Instagram and Facebook user, but I’m beginning to wonder how I can save all my virtual, visual poetry.


About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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