This AP story is a bit of a perennial; I wrote about the political ramifications of this same topic almost three years ago. But it’s always fascinating to explore the surprising archival permanence of a media that at first glance appears to be the very definition of ephemeral:
Matching mullets, regrettable tattoos, metal mouths and goofy grins.
Such long-lost looks were never meant to be seen by anyone except those flipping through the pages of an old family album or studying the photo frames on the fireplace mantel.
But now, Americans who grew up long before the Internet opened private lives to the world are digging up dusty boxes for photos to share on Facebook and other sites — sometimes to the chagrin of family members and schoolmates appearing in group shots.
Most people sharing photos from their past are simply having fun, and it can even serve as some form of collective healing.
“There’s definitely a bit of exhibitionism involved,” said Brandon Van Der Heide, an Ohio State University professor who studies the social implications of the Internet. “It’s a way for people to connect to something that’s familiar and laugh at themselves.”
Nikki Smith, a 37-year-old Facebook user from Paducah, Ky., flipped through the scrapbooks she pieced together as a teenager and began scanning the old photos into her computer. The images took her back 20 years to the days of big hair, oversized sweaters, Air Jordan sneakers and aviator sunglasses.
“I had really, really bad hair in my senior year,” Smith said. “But everyone knows. Everybody was there.”
Smith said posting the photos on Facebook “gave everyone a good laugh.”
It also put her back in touch with many of her old high school classmates. One photo, which shows Smith posing with her high school dance troupe in matching blue and white leotards and knee high boots, garnered more than 40 comments alone from other Facebook users.
“I don’t think any of them are really awful,” Smith said. “It was 20 years ago, who cares?”
But some people do care, especially when someone else has uploaded an unflattering photo or video.
By far, this may be the most frightening example of this trend in action. (WARNING: Questionable hair styles and Members-Only jackets may make this video unsuitable for family viewing):
Update: In contrast, this Website actually is horrific: MyTattooSucks.com. As the Professor writes, “Possibly not safe for work, though not in any very fun way…” Not that Theodore Dalrymple would have been surprised, though.