How 24-hour stories came to capture ‘life stories’

The 24-hour stories on social media platforms reinstate the transience of life.

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“The life that you live in order to photograph it is already, at the outset, a commemoration of itself.”
-Italo Calvino, Difficult Loves

First Snap stories, then Instagram stories, followed by WhatsApp statuses; and now Messenger Day seems to be the newest kid on the block. With the most frequently used social media platforms doing the 24-hour story game right, it seems like it won’t be long before our social media experience will be engulfed by the anxiety of posting, checking who viewed the posts and viewing others’ posts.

For instance

You go to have pizza with friends, one of whom has to leave in 30 minutes. You are all killing time until the pizza arrives. In those 10 minutes, one of you takes her phone out and starts clicking pictures/shooting Boomerangs while you don’t notice them doing it. You start doing the same. The others do the same. This is how all your other friends get to know within seconds that you all are hanging out to have pizza.

Each of you upload stories on Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Considering an average of 2 minutes spent on each application, you spend a total of 8 minutes in posting stories if you do not want  to be the one whose stories deliver nothing new to followers. By the one who reluctantly started sharing stories 2 minutes after the others did, completes the business, the pizza is here.

Once the pizza is served, each one posts a story of it. These were pictures of the entire pizza, mind you. You also have to post a picture of after your slice is on your plate. Assuming this process took you 4 minutes in all, the friend who’s got to leave in 30 minutes has 16 minutes in hand. She starts eating her food. Before you realise, she has to leave but before she leaves, “let me click a selfie”.

In the entire time spent with friends, when did you stop to talk to each other?

You discussed about how the pizza tastes, which place offers better pizza and when you last ate at this particular eatery. Did you discuss how your heart ached at three this morning for a moment that will never return? Did you recall memories of the time you first met each other?

Aesthetic Consumerism

Photographs, which are meant to be souvenirs of experiences one has already had, have now become a means to actualize the experience. This is something Susan Sontag had foreseen long before the dystopia we are living in had been materialised.

You live in an economy that runs on envy.

If the picture of the delectable pizza posted by your friend did not water your mouth, you would not go to that eatery the next weekend itself. If you did not envy the quality of pictures your friend posts with an iPhone, you would not have bought an iPhone. If you did not envy the car your neighbour drives, you would not have bought your second car.

The culture of consumption that willingly or unwillingly we are a part of, demands that we struggle for a better pizza, phone, car. It demands that we make our lives look worth envy with post-processed photographs. It may increase the illusory aesthetic quotient of our daily experience, but it is certain to create an experience of reality as we desire it to be.

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Why post stories?

Why post stories when you can actually make posts that stay permanently on your Facebook or Instagram wall? The answer is nothing you have not known till date. Stories let you post many times without actually spamming anyone. They let you post stuff that you would not want to keep on your timeline either because they are not aesthetically very pleasing or because they capture in essence the transience of the moments you want to show to the world.

However, the most important reason for posting stories is to capture moments that you know won’t last long. You are living a moment which your followers are not.

This is a subversion of the very idea of photography and videography because instead of capturing moments so that they last for a long time, one now captures moments simply to share them with the rest of the world for a short period. This moment in history is one of self-reflection – it reveals that we lose the moment in the attempt to immortalise it. It reminds us of the transience of life itself and questions if one really document a life story in public moment through social media stories. It makes Emily Dickinson all the more relevant:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

Featured Image Courtesy: Visual Hunt

Proud to be a Woman?

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When that school friend I grew up pouring my heart out to every now and then, that girl in college whom I often have encountered clicking selfies in the Girls’ Common Room, and that woman born out of countless girls like these, tagged me on Facebook to share a photograph of mine- a photograph that makes me proud to be a woman, all I did was ransack all photo albums I have curated for myself. I started with searching for my pictures as a baby, looked for those as a child, an adolescent, to finally come to my adult self. That I have to call my present self an adult is itself testimony to how much of a conformist I have been. What if I am, despite being eighteen, not yet ready to behave like the definition of an adult as is floated around me every time I give in to juvenile desires? But let’s keep it for another day, lest many an old scar should be dug up in the process.

Coming back to being proud to be a woman, I honestly could not find a photograph that, in the milieu I have been brought up, makes me feel so. Why should I be proud to be a woman? It was not my choice to be a woman. It was the obstetrician, who declared to my family soon after examining my genitals that a girl was born to them, who decided that I be a woman. It was my doting father who called me his princess, my grandmother who throughout my childhood bought me numerous kitchen sets from the annual fair and my mother who insisted that I grew long hair, to decide that I be a woman. It was my teacher in a co-educational Montessori, training only girls to join their thighs like Siamese twins, who decided that I be a woman. The womanhood I wield today, was not my choice. I have had to, like pieces of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle, fit in into the various roles of a woman as demanded of me for the last eighteen years.

I did not want to seem rude to all those women who tagged me. Hence, I replayed the bodily traces of my womanhood like lyrics lost on the way home from a late night party that leaves you too intoxicated to remember every detail. The memories which this drunkenness allowed me were, unfortunately, not recorded in the form of photographs. Nobody snapshot the moment I first masturbated, nor did anyone record when the first drops of blood shocked the senses out of me while, as on any other day, I went to the washroom to urinate. There is no pictorial evidence of the first time a certain friend flirtatiously asked me for a French kiss. These hush-hush moments are not to be photographed, because hey, do you not remember that you are a woman- a breed never been talked about in generic biological theories about the humankind for the longest time in history, let alone in sociological postulations. I thus decided against posting any picture in response to the challenge.

I still am not certain about what I should be proud of- the religion of womanhood that I have unconsciously embraced, or the choice of womanhood I made on solitary afternoons with many a new idea about the same crawling up to my head.