The Most Important Thing on the Internet Is the Screenshot

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Excerpt from this article:

Ivelina’s boyfriend stopped responding to her texts. No small trauma. She was a high school senior; they’d been together a year, and then—two weeks of nothing. Eventually he sent her a rambling excuse via SMS: He’d been longboarding, he said, and broke his phone. “u want me to send you a picture of it?” he offered.

Hmm, thought Ivelina. Pretty lame. To reality-check her reaction, she applied a relatively new tool: She took a screenshot of her boyfriend’s text and forwarded it to her close friends. They agreed: lame. Ivelina dumped him.

Screenshots never used to be that powerful… But now people routinely take screenshots of funny/outrageous comments on social media to share with friends. Twitter users post grabs of things they’re reading.

…The same thing happened with cameraphones a decade ago, when we suddenly began capturing evanescent moments from our physical lives. Today some of our most intense experiences are online, so screenshots serve the same function. It’s photography for life on the screen—“how you share point-of-view…”

Screenshots can also be almost forensic, a way to prove to others that you’re really seeing the crazy stuff you’re seeing. The first viral hit of the screenshot age was the often-filthy autocorrect errors in SMS. Now screenshots hold people accountable for their terrible online words.

…“It’s like a scrapbook, or a fossil record in digital silt,” King says. A lifetime of scraps, glimpsed through the screen.

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