Years ago when I started blogging and I actually cared about how many people came to read my blog (I have long since stopped caring whatsoever), I asked a friend with a very popular blog how she built her readership.
"Pictures. You have to post pictures. You can talk about your life as much as you want, but unless you provide pictures, people won't be able to visualize what your life looks like."
I totally ignored that advice.
I didn't have a good camera, I am not a good photographer, and I really didn't think it was that important. Back then, photo blogs were for photo bloggers. Words are our friends here, right?
But things have changed. I twitpic and instagram photos constantly—anyone with a smart phone and a steady hand can be a photographer now.
My life is also ridiculously photogenic. I'm not talking about snapping quick shots of my sweetgreen or a neighborhood dog leashed up outside a coffee shop on Penn. I'm talking about living in a city that is an overwhelming and ceaseless source of inspiration. At the risk of sounding cheesy, just looking at the Capitol dome every day motivates me to do more than I did the day before.
Don't believe me? This is my running scenery.
And this (the Library of Congress) is two blocks from my house.
I live in a beautiful world.
Sometimes I worry that I'm not properly documenting my life. I tweet and facebook, but I use those spaces predominantly for sharing news and information, not talking about myself. I have journals and letters written by relatives who have long since passed away and even a good number of photographs, but I have to sit and imagine what their lives were truly like. What secret pains did they edit from letters home, what romances or grudges were concealed from history forever.
And now that we're finally blessed with dozens of new ways to chronicle our lives, we're just taking pictures of our feet on beaches or tracking how long it took us to run five miles on a Saturday morning. Or worse.
I am horrified by the things my older brother puts online. His is a selfishness and arrogance that lacks an appropriate word. I ask myself why I have such a honed sense of family and such a deep respect for the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents who have helped me become what I am today while he does not. I owe them my absolute best and I often wonder if I'm doing enough—why doesn't he do the same?
I also ask myself what my future children will one day see. What narrative will they patch together of my early years from my blog and my tweets and my pictures?
I think more people should bear that in mind. What are your children going to see? Will they go back through your Facebook timeline and marvel at how much of themselves they see in the younger version of you? Will they look through hundreds of your self-portraits and think that you were beautiful... or will they think you were self-important and vain? Will your daughter delight in seeing pictures of you enjoying a patio brunch with girlfriends in a Kate Spade dress you will one day give her? Will she care that you were a size four or a size eight?
Why don't we live (and document) our lives with some sort of awareness that we're creating stories for our future generations... and why aren't more people hopelessly embarrassed by the things they share?