Photo Captions and You

Due to the nature of the work I do (and thankfully get paid for), I tend to spend a fair amount of time on social media. Translation: I get to spend all day on Facebook and Twitter, and every 27 and a half minutes I get to answer the question, “lol dude ur always on fb wtf man lol?”

What this also means is that I’m exposed (against my wishes) to a fair amount of photographs that have no business being on the internet. But I’ve made my peace with that. It’s a free world, people can express themselves via a medium of their choosing. I won’t really say anything against that otherwise the “Avtar = Stalin” posters will hit the printing machines again.

What I haven’t made my peace with is the kind of captions people think deserve to go with these photographs. Let me quickly plug in something very important, a life lesson for everyone: photo captions are optional. Always.

Since there are people out there who don’t believe in evolution (LOL BUT IF WE EVOLVED FROM MONKEYS EXPLAIN MONKEYS TO ME TODAY HAH GOTCHA!), I’m sure a few of you are skeptical about what sort of captions I’m talking about, or as they are more aptly called – craptions. Allow me to jog your memory and explain to you who these people are and what they do.

1. The Quote Junkies

“A woman should be two things, classy and fabulous” – Coco Chanel, reads a caption on a photo of a girl who just bought a new dress. Note: she may or may not be wearing the new dress, it might just be in a bag and she could be in the middle of a mall posing with it, the entire point of the photo now being that yes, I go to malls! I’M SUCH A SHOPAHOLIC LOL.

Or better yet, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” – Marilyn Monroe. I guess that’s what Hitler got wrong in World War 2, he wasn’t wearing the right loafers.

Great choice girls!

Good ol’ Marilyn Monroe.

I’ve seen these captions on at least 684 photos in the last year. It drives me absolutely fucking insane. Putting aside the fact that you’re quoting a Nazi spy (Coco Chanel) and Marilyn Monroe (explained above), you’re not being classy or fabulous by wearing a new dress, tilting your head to the side and smiling with one of your hands on your waist. It’s pretty much the same thing as me putting up a photo posing with a gun in it with the caption, “Where there is love, there is life.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

2. Hearts, Kisses and General Bullshitters

Last month, I removed someone from my friends list because of this. They uploaded an album with the title, “BEST DAY EVA ❤ ❤ <3”. Now if you went bungee jumping in New Zealand or if you cuddled puppies for the entire day at the pet shelter, I’d forgive you for your questionable grammar, spelling and album title, but you uploaded 184 photographs of you and your friends at Burger King and every photo had the caption, “besties 4 lyf ❤ <3”.

There were 36 close-up photographs of french fries for fuck’s sake.

I did the only thing I could do. I commented on one of the photos which had all of them in it saying, “Can’t believe you guys are still friends after what she said about you” and then removed the person from my friends list. That probably ruffled a few feathers and caused a fair amount of suspicion.

3. Those Damn Hashtags Addicts

Let’s get this straight, you shouldn’t be using hashtags on Facebook. Ever. Even if you get money for it. Even though Facebook now supports hashtags, you still shouldn’t do it, primarily because Zuckerberg doesn’t either and all of Facebook realized how fucking stupid it was to incorporate hashtags. Enter Instagram, the only place on the internet apart from Twitter where you should use hashtags. And under no circumstances should you be using #swag or #yolo.

You're doing YOLO right.

You’re doing YOLO right.

Here’s a general rule of thumb, if you’re going to use a hashtag on Instagram, use at the most: two or three. That is all. Do not take a picture of yourself getting coffee and use the caption: #coffee #earlybirdgetstheworm #latte #starbucks #omgcoffee #needtostayup #zombiemodedeactivate #cantgetenoughcoffee #firstoftheday #yolo #swaghat #getthisdaystarted #conquertheworld #liveyourdreams #firstactivityoftheday #kickstart #caffeine #shotshotshotshot #toomanyhashtagslol #latergram #swag #yolopuppies.

4. The Storytellers

Tell me something honestly, do you think it’s appropriate for you to type out five paragraphs as a caption for a photograph? STOP THINKING, THE ANSWER IS NO DAMMIT. Oh yes, we have those too. Picture of a birthday cake, and a massive 500 word caption associated with it, thanking everyone who was involved in the baking of the cake, delivering it to the house and finally eating it. It’s amazing how at moments like these you tend to see the best in people. Send a damn e-mail. Jesus.

“And a big hug to [censored] for organizing this amazing surprise! What would I do without people like you!”

Bitch, you told me last weekend you hate his guts. You ain’t fooling no one.

Okay, maybe if it’s a birthday surprise and you’re thanking all your friends for getting you a cake and making you feel special – I can understand that. You want all your friends to know they’re appreciated (even though it’s a massive inconvenience to the rest of us) and you want it to be publicly shown and what not. Fair enough.

But. Sunday lunch with a couple of friends who you caught up with after a long time? Please don’t go and put up 300 words about how much you missed them as a photo caption. “We should do this more often!” will suffice.

Basic message: When it comes to photo captions, less is more.



The System Is Broken

In our race to succeed and excel, we often forget what is truly important. In the chase for glory and glamour, the value of simple and elementary pleasures are forgotten. They say that you realize the true value of something only when it is lost. They say that our most valuable possession is not our house, not our car and not our most expensive gadget, but it is life itself. Unfortunately, the value of life is realized only when we are confronted by death itself.

On January 11, 2013 a life was lost. While many other lives were lost on the same day as well, I’m going to highlight just one today. One life that wasn’t truly lost, but was taken. The end of free content on the internet sends shivers down many a spine. For all our intelligence, power and connectivity, the most that we could do as individuals when faced with this possibility a few months ago was to share meaningless photographs across social networks and sign baseless petitions on websites that would amount to and achieve absolutely nothing. For many, the end of free content on the internet and censorship was a myth. It was incomprehensible that websites like Wikipedia would no longer exist and that we would have to pay to seek out information online. For many, these events went unnoticed and eventually, were deemed inconsequential.

Not for Aaron Swartz. At the age of 14, he achieved more than what many of us will achieve in our entire lifetime. At that tender age, he co-authored RSS, a family of web feed formats that are used today by the likes of Google to accumulate information from various websites on the internet and present it to you in a simple package or stream, like on their news page. While still in school, Swartz created an online encyclopedia that allowed people to add and edit information in it, long before Jimmy Wales came up with Wikipedia. Swartz was instrumental in the fight against SOPA last year and believed in the concept of free information for everyone.

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz – The “Free Information” Activist

The world isn’t kind to activists. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in the streets or behind a computer screen. They’re either neglected by those very people for whom they seek justice and a better world, or they are shunned and thrown behind bars by those that they oppose. JSTOR, a digital library that stores issues of academic papers, scientific journals and books, claimed that Aaron Swartz had hacked into their network, downloaded close to five million files with the intent of freely distributing them on the internet. Swartz wanted information to be free, and JSTOR was a trove of scientific information that was very useful for students worldwide. He was looking to make research material and scientific information easier for everyone to access, for free.

On reclaiming the articles from Aaron Swartz, JSTOR decided not to press charges. However, in July 2011 U.S Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz charged Swartz with computer fraud in addition to a number of other charges that racked up a total of 35 years of jailtime in addition to a million dollars in fines. In spite of JSTOR not pressing charges, the U.S Attorney decided to go ahead with the trial. If found guility, Aaron Swartz would spend pretty much his entire life in jail. And all of this not for crimes against humanity or for terrorism, but for trying to release academic information for free online.

Aaron Swartz faced decades in prison, simply for attempting to make the internet better. At the age of 26, on January 11 2013, Aaron Swartz took his own life.

They say that suicide is an act of cowardice, but in the case of Aaron Swartz, it is most definitely not so. The human brain is wired to fight for survival, it is our basic instinct to live. Many of us cannot even fathom the hopelessness that Swartz must have felt after being told about the potential sentence he faced. A 26 year old faced with 35 years in prison, for a “crime” as trivial as this is more than just ridiculous, and to be the one to carry out that sentence after striving your entire life for something as essential as the freedom of information and then being sentenced to life in prison for it, is daunting to say the very least.

The system is broken. It’s depressing how murderers, rapists and terrorists get away without facing any jail-time due to minor technicalities. Yet, in the eyes of the legal system, individuals like Aaron Swartz are Public Enemy #1.

The death of Aaron Swartz was not suicide, and it is not murder. It is something much greater. The death of Aaron Swartz is our failure as a species.

Rest in Peace Aaron, God knows you deserve it.

The Internet Has Turned You into a Demon

In the early 1960’s, a gentleman named J.C.R. Licklider proposed that a vast global network of computers would benefit the research and development in various scientific fields and would aid future generations to communicate and share information. His vision was to have all the Universities of the world connected to one another so they could share research notes, get help on incomplete formulae and have a platform for knowledge sharing.  No one has heard of him ever because he has a stupid name, and because he didn’t wear a glittery golden dress and sing something along the lines of, “Baby get up let’s party!”

That, and because his entire idea behind the internet was ridiculous. Where the hell do all the videos of cats fit in? I mean, buddy, your research on cosmic radiation and helium nuclei can wait, but I need to tell Julia what I had for lunch with Tom at that cute little 70’s themed cafe and I’m going to need to send her a photo too, I can’t just tell her in words. What am I, an ape? So could you get working on that?

Ever since the term “personal computer” was introduced a few decades ago, the average IQ of mankind dropped by about 40 points. Today, the internet has turned into a swarm of wriggling, slimy, writhing cannibalistic snakes that eat their first born child and gloat about it to another snake who then promptly eats the first snake. According to the latest figures, there are almost two and a half billion people on the planet who use the internet. Let that sink in, two and a half billion people. Pretty much everyone is on the internet now, which is why it’s become so horrible. It’s no longer a niche for the well informed and educated, like you know, me and you.

The story of the internet.

As the internet is supposed to be a platform for us to share information, take part in intelligent discussion, perhaps learn about new cultures and better ourselves as human beings, a lot of people optimistically join groups, forums and take part in discussions on social networks. What happens of course, is that from an eager young sapling that yearns to get a few rays of sunlight, they turn into fire breathing Giant Sequoias from the depths of hell. It’s not their fault, it’s just that everyone on the internet is a demon.

Here’s the difference. A few years ago (perhaps before 2007) if you approached someone online and said, “Hey, did you hear? Nokia is about to launch a new phone series and apparently MP3 ring tones are a standard now!”, the response you would get is, “Yeah! I heard man, that’s amazing isn’t it? I can’t wait! Are you going to get one as well? I’m thinking about getting the 5510, what about you?” And just like that, pleasant conversation would continue and both individuals would pick up a little bit of information and log off and go on with their lives without being emotionally scarred and not in need of therapy.  Read More