Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Your photos are worth developing

The internet is not as safe or stable as we think
Bady Abbas via Unsplash

I saw a video on TikTok recently that said that future generations will get greater glimpses into our personalities because they will be forever enshrined on social media. When I opened the comments section, I was shocked to find that most were in some form of agreement, although I’m not sure why I was so surprised.

As a society, we are heavily reliant on technology, meaning the personal and intimate details of our lives are stored away in servers. Information about our lives becomes data that we give willingly to tech companies. What they choose to do with it and how they choose to protect it or exploit it is a source of worldwide debate. I am concerned about the safety of my data. It worries me that these companies use information they have collected on us as bargaining chips to sell us more products and keep us addicted to their algorithms. But my concern has multiple facets. I worry about the loss of my data and about losing what I have stored online and not being able to get it back.

I have seen what was once cutting-edge technology get replaced by newer models, rendering the old ones unusable. I remember watching movies on a VCR or DVD, but as I got older, streaming services eliminated the need to physically buy movies. It feels like the rate at which technology is advancing has greatly accelerated, even in my lifetime.

The emergence of the “cloud” has lulled us into a false sense of security. In the early days of the iPhone and other smartphones, all pictures and videos were stored locally, meaning if your phone sustained extensive damage, your photos were lost forever. But now, because of the cloud, our photos are backed up. If you get a new phone, you can sync all your old pictures to it. So, why would it make any sense to develop your photos?

We are constantly told that the internet is permanent; once something is posted, it can never truly be deleted. And while that is on its face true, it is also true that the internet is and has always been unstable. Many websites suffer from “link rot,” or a link that leads you to outdated or inaccessible content. Social media platforms can lose data or be deleted entirely. In 2019, MySpace lost all photo, video and audio files uploaded to the website prior to 2016 in a data migration. And while MySpace is a relic of an older generation’s internet, that is exactly my fear. Data stored solely online is dependent on the upkeep of the physical hardware it exists on. A routine data migration gone wrong could mean the loss of our documented lives.

An example of something more recent is the death of Vine. Vine was an app that predated TikTok but was similar in its nature. Users could share short, six second videos. It was highly popular among teens, and at its peak, boasted hundreds of millions of users. But due to an increasingly competitive market for short form video content, Vine could not keep up. In 2017, it was shut down by Twitter, its parent company. Although the most viral Vines still exist in various YouTube compilations, the average user’s videos were lost forever. And although TikTok has proved to be more profitable, it’s not ridiculous to say that something similar could happen. However, instead of shutting down, it’s more likely that TikTok would be banned, or restricted in a manner that makes it lose its’ relevance, given Congress’s hyper fixation on its foreign origins.

The data we entrust to tech companies is not as safe as we think. There is a plethora of concerns about keeping our data safe and accessible for future generations. Some have gone so far as to dub our current situation a “digital dark age.” Considering this, it’s worth developing your photos. It would be heartbreaking to learn 20 or 30 years down the line that you can no longer access them because of an issue with format accessibility or a botched server migration.

Past generations did not have the luxury of having their photos backed up to the cloud. If their pictures were physically damaged, they had no choice but to accept that loss. We can now enjoy the comfort of knowing we can always print replacements of our photos, but we cannot know for sure how technology will advance, or how protected our data will be.

There’s something nostalgic about flipping through old photos physically, rather than mindlessly scrolling by them. Our lives are so intertwined with the internet functioning as it should, but it would be a mistake to count on technology always operating the way we want it to, and it would be a mistake to not have physical copies of your photos. You might not care right now, but someday your kids will.

Fiona McFarland can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *