Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


“Pics or it didn’t happen”

Image via MemeCenter

The mantra of the Instagram era:

Think about the pictures of a horde of tourists assembled in front of the Mona Lisa, their cameras clicking away. It is the most photographed work of art in human history. You can see it in full light, low light, close-up, far away, x-rayed; you can find parodies of parodies of parodies; and yet, seeing it in person and walking away does not suffice. The experience must be captured, the painting itself possessed, a poor facsimile of it acquired so that you can call it your own – a photograph which, in the end, says, I was here. I went to Paris and saw the Mona Lisa. The photo shows that you could afford the trip, that you are cultured, and offers an entrée to your story about the other tourists you had to elbow your way through, the security guard who tried to flirt with you, the incredible pastry you had afterwards, the realisation that the painting really is not much to look at and that you have always preferred Rembrandt. The grainy, slightly askew photo signifies all these things. Most important, it is yours. You took it. It got 12 likes.

This is also the unspoken thought process behind every reblog or retweet, every time you pin something that has already been pinned hundreds of times. You need it for yourself. Placing it on your blog or in your Twitter stream acts as a form of identification – a signal of your aesthetics, a reflection of your background, an avatar of your desires. It must be held, however provisionally and insubstantially, in your hand, and so by reposting it, you claim some kind of possession of it.


One Response to “Pics or it didn’t happen”

  1. Samson says:

    I mean, isn’t that why websites like Tumblr and Twitter that revolve around making a giant wall of ME thrive so much?

    I guess, in this case I don’t think of the people who just post every little thing that comes to mind. I don’t think of the Twitter user who likes to retweet to the point of feed clogging, or the Tumblr user who hits post limit because they mixed up the like button and the reblog button.
    I’m talking more about the people who pick a very specific aesthetic (you know, the first thing you tagged this as,) and then meticulously pick posts around that. (I say this as if I’m not guilty of doing the exact same thing.) Although, arguably, it doesn’t really matter in the end. It’s all representative of the person who reposted it anyway, to a point.

    But it’s something tangibly different than a physical collection (like rocks, stamps, etc,) and less achievement oriented than collecting items and hoarding riches in video games. And yet, it’s somehow still rewarding to look back on that digital box of concepts and go “yep, those sure are all things I somewhat enjoy.”


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