Where Logic Meets Love

The Lives of Nameless People

Thursday, February 24, 2011

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The Lives of Nameless People | Faith Permeating Life
For Christmas, I received iLife '11, a big upgrade for me from the iLife '08 that was on my Mac when I got it. This meant that I finally got the fun of the "Faces" and "Places" features in iPhoto, which allow you to tag who's in your pictures (as on Facebook) and where pictures are taken, and then you can find all pictures of a certain person or taken in a certain place.

These kind of projects are my downfall because of my need for completeness. And unlike the project mentioned in the previous post, in which I went through thousands of songs in my iTunes and corrected all the information in each profile, tagging faces can quickly start to mess with your head.

First of all, iPhoto will recognize faces regardless of whether they're actually the main focus of the picture, and sometimes will mistakenly tag inanimate objects as faces as well. This means you have to go through and delete the tags you don't want. It's one thing to say, no, this tire or this piece of wallpaper is not a face. But then you say -- well, OK, that is a face, but it was just our waiter that night, or just the people standing behind us in line. And so it forces you to acknowledge that that is a person who has a name and a life and -- yes -- a face, but to you, they mean nothing. I started wondering how many other people's pictures I'd ended up in who didn't know me and would have just x-ed my face out as an unimportant bystander. A nameless, meaningless person.

Then the lines become fuzzier. There are the people whose names you knew at one point, but can't remember. There's a whole group of girls I spent months with in college planning a gay pride T-shirt distribution, and I have all these pictures from the distribution day, and I can't remember a single one of their names. Is it important that I label them? I don't have any contact with them now, but I worked so closely with them for so long that I don't feel right lumping them in with the nameless people I never met who show up in photos of crowds. Yet how much effort do I really want to make tracking down their names? Why does it matter?

And what about that girl that went on all the campus ministry retreats with us? What's-her-face, something starting with an A? She was friends with a handful of our friends, so she's kind of important, right? She keeps showing up in these pictures, so it's not like we can pretend she's not there... And so she gets left as a nameless tagged face. Ditto to that guy that our friend dated for forever, who came to everything, but whose name neither of us can remember. And so on.

Then there's the people you don't know at all -- but you know their names. Mike's been a groomsman quite a few times at this point, so there's plenty of pictures of him and some girl or another that we don't know, walking down the aisle. All it takes is pulling out the wedding program, and well, now I've got all their names right here, so why not label his childhood friend's bride's third bridesmaid, and that cute flower girl, and the bride's grandmother? It can start to get kind of absurd -- when am I ever going to be looking for pictures of her grandmother? -- but again, why delete the face tag when I can properly label the person?

It starts raising all sorts of questions. Who is important in your life? Why? If someone was important, and now isn't, is it important to remember them? How can we know so many people for so long without knowing much about them? Why do we keep pictures? When will we ever want to know who's in the pictures, or look for pictures of a particular person? Who do we now know who won't be important 10 years from now?

I think it's similar to what a lot of people go through with Facebook and deciding whether you want to friend someone or remain Facebook friends with them, particularly if you don't interact any more with them via Facebook than you did before. In that case it's a little different because it's a mutual thing. But it definitely makes you think about the relationships we have in life and how much they change over time. I'm of the belief that it's not important to try to hold onto friendships forever -- sometimes people bless you with their friendship for a certain period of your life, and then you move into a different stage of life where your relationship needs are different. But I still think it's important to remember people who played a big role in your life at some point. Or even a small role, if just to avoid looking at pictures 10 year from now and going, "Oh... what the heck was her name?"

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