A little while ago, I got a message on my phone telling me I was running out of storage space. I've gotten in the habit of just whipping out my phone when I need to take a pic for the blog or Craigslist or whatever. I usually snap several, just to make sure one of two come out okay.
I've got Dropbox installed, so the pictures I take on my phone automatically upload to my PC. I still prefer to do what minimal photo editing I know how to do on the computer. I get a little better control than with my fat thumbs on my phone. Since I use the copies on the PC, all those photos have been kind of piling up on my phone, until I started to run out of space.
I ended up spending a few minutes here and there deleting things I had already used and had no reason to keep. Do I really need that pic of a Little Tikes table that sold nearly a year ago? Uhm, that would be a no. Digital spring cleaning--gotta free up those megabytes! When I was done, it struck me just how many pictures I had deleted. It had never dawned on me just how often I grab my phone and snap away.
I can remember when pictures were things you took at parties and on vacation, and not something you did willy nilly every time you saw a broken phone or some interesting graffiti. (Which reminds there's a bit of "wall art" down the street I want to snap.) I'm not being old curmudgeon dude here when I say this. In fact, I love the freedom and flexibility this little gadget gives me, not to mention the blog content. Hardly a day goes by that I don't use it. I'm just surprised at how impermanent all those pics are now. I use them and I toss them. Done.
Junkers are used to dealing with what is called "ephemera." Some specialize in it. You see boxes of it at nearly every estate sale: receipts, letter, bills, old brochures, maps, old cards, notes, postcards, and, yes, even pictures. Printed materials in other words. Stuff on paper. The term "ephemera" speaks to the fragility of paper, its impermanence. It rips and tears. It rots. It burns. Lots of it doesn't last.
Another definition for ephemera is this: Things that are useful only for a very short time. in that sense, all those photos clogging my phone (and probably lots and lots of other phones) are truly ephemeral. That couch I just posted to Craigslist? Don't need it any more. That funny dog I just put on Facebook? Done with it. That plate of food I just Instagramed? Burp.
I don't know that I have any kind of point to this at all. It just struck me as interesting. So does this image: Forty years from now the junkers are pawing through a box of old cell phones and tablets at a yard sale, hoping to strike gold and find one that still has tons of pictures on it. The box is labelled: "ephemera."
It could happen.