I’m pretty much unable to draw, though I doodle a lot when I’m thinking. Photography has been my visual outlet, and I’ve long loved taking photographs and sharing photographs with friends and family.
It took me a long time to give up my film camera, but when I converted to digital, it was permanent and now my old film SLR just sits there. I used to print lots of doubles of photographs to share with friends, but with digital files, I simply upload my photos and use Flickr to host my “photo albums.” My bookshelf of photo albums abruptly ends at that point, and now all my recent photo album holds is photo Christmas cards from friends and family featuring their kids. I enjoy the ease of sharing photos online, and given the loss of a few hard drives, I value that Flickr is storing my photos for me off-site.
Until recently, my online photo album caused no angst. I don’t have kids and haven’t acquired a stalker so I feel unperturbed about hosting personal photos online. But, an interesting thing just happened to remind me that my personal photo album is public, and therefore not entirely mine.
It took me a while to notice the add person to photo link in Flickr. But I love tagging things, so when I did notice, I immediately thought of some photos that I had uploaded that had other Flickr members featured (this feature is less interesting for non-Flickr members). At that point, I went on a tagging spree and labeled them.
I received a response that I should have anticipated. In my tagging frenzy, I’d tagged a friend in a photo I’d taken several years ago. In my photo, she’s seated with a man with whom she’d had a stormy relationship. Flickr had dutifully emailed her that I’d tagged her in a photo, and she had probably gone to look and perhaps been surprised by the reminder of that relationship.
I got this message via flickr. Would you be willing to remove this photo from your page. [NAME] is in it and I would like to look at your site without being reminded of him.
What’s interesting to me about her note is that:
- That photo had been online on Flickr for several years, and she probably saw it when I first shared it with her after the event, but since the photo was buried underneath several years of more recent photos, it was below her notice until I tagged her and Flickr notified her.
- Once it was tagged, it was not only more obvious to her, but it was also more findable by anyone looking for information on her online (a current love interest, a parent)…
My response was complicated. I realized I had been thoughtless and may have caused her pain, and I felt like a bad friend. At the same time, I was reluctant to remove the photo, even though I had had a negative interaction with her ex that very day, because he was part of my memory of the event and the image was within what I considered my personal photo album. Additionally, since Flickr is my photo file storage application, and the photo was taken at least one hard drive crash ago, I didn’t even know if I had a copy of the file on my computer anymore.
It’s odd to me. I didn’t even like the guy, so it should have been fine to delete the photo, but that didn’t feel fine. In my mind, my Flickr site is mine first, and shared second, but, of course, that’s not how anyone else experiences it. And, the adding people functionality made that tension more apparent. My compromise in this case was to keep the photo on Flickr, but to label it private, so it was no longer visible to her and was not findable by anyone else.