What technology got wrong

I suppose that the reason for this blog came to me as I settled into my seat to watch a performance of the ballet, Romeo and Juliet. I was suddenly aware of the latest pandemic rearing its head again.

This was not Covid-19 but the reappearance in society of the mobile telephone camera.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I too have taken photographs throughout my life, but this has been done to record many of the special places and people that have made up the rich panoply of my life so far.

To achieve this, it was necessary to remember to pack the camera when I went on holiday or for rare visits to relations. Cameras were meant to record important memories that may find themselves into albums or picture frames.

All this changed with the advent of the mobile telephone. This device started out with the best of intentions so that people could make telephone calls when away from home without having to queue at telephone boxes.

In the early days, the first single cameras that were added as a marketing gimmick produced a low-quality image that the small memory size of the phone could cope with. However, as memory size increased so did the quality of the camera.

The real disaster came when the rear-facing camera was added. Whilst designed with the best of intentions in delivering video calls, it fed the growing egotism of the camera users. Soon the images of famous sights and relevant people were replaced by thousands of photos of the camera person themselves. The selfie was born!

Restrictions brought about through lockdowns caused untold emotional distress for the selfie addict. Clearly, people sitting around in their pyjamas eating crisps was not the image they wanted to portray, and the idea of putting on a ballgown to put out the rubbish was only a passing fad for low list celebrities starved of visibility.

So, the selfie addict resorted to photographing the mundane. Suddenly, social media was awash with every meal that people ate, every drink that they drank and every time their cat or dog did anything other than sleep!

Now, of course, restrictions are being lifted and the ardent photographer is no longer limited in his or her choice of subject. But, as we all know, habits once formed are hard to break.

Which brings me to the other night at the theatre when the cameras were still looking for mundane subjects to photograph. Suddenly, people waiting for the start of the ballet were out with their cameras and taking pictures of the closed stage curtains.

Initially, I thought the first person had spotted the perfect shade of red for their new lounge curtains, but soon realised that the habitual camera twitch had clicked in. Luckily, the selfie bug has not yet returned in full force but give it time.

The good news is that Covid-19 is gradually being overcome. However, my expectation is that social media will soon be awash with selfies and other mundane objects. Moreover, the wonderful sights of our planets will take second place and family photos will have to have the camera person in the foreground, with the relations reduced to bit part actors.

I am not someone that thinks that mobiles should revert to only being used to make voice calls. However, surely the rear-facing camera could be disabled except when being used by video calling software.

But then, that would probably reduce the income from iCloud with less selfies to store. And where would social media be if people didn’t keep posting pictures of food, themselves or stage curtains?





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