04.Jan.2011 Pummelvision: Facebook life ain’t real life.
I recently saw a post on Laughing Squid about a Web site called Pummelvision which, with a user’s permission, pulls photos from a Facebook account and makes them into a video—your “life” flashing before your eyes, if you will. It sounded interesting and the example video looked pretty cool…
…but I couldn’t help but notice how hip and urban, as well as thought out the video seemed. I have no doubt the example video was chosen by Laughing Squid for this reason, or maybe was created as a slick promo (or just put together from the Facebook account of a particularly hip and artsy cat), but it made me wonder what kind of video an average Facebook account would produce. I know I probably have dozens if not hundreds of drunken, debaucherous and downright unflattering photos on Facebook, so how would my “average joe” account hold up against the chic sample I saw? Take a look…
While the video turned out to be a less damning cross section of my life than I expected, a few things jumped out at me.
First, the video is only comprised of photos which I have personally uploaded, not all of the photos that I’m tagged in. The vast majority of the most compromising photos of me on Facebook were uploaded by friends from college during college and focus almost solely on the drunkest of nights. That entire chapter of my life—and it’s a long one—is omitted from my Pummelvision, thus leaving a big hole in my Facebook story, but that leaves me looking a lot more responsible between the years of 2005 and 2007.
The next thing I noticed was the different “phases” I went through when uploading my photos. The video contains a few different sections where random images pulled from the internet flip by and a few other sections where I’m displaying one mustache or another. The main sections that don’t contain random interwebs mischief and Movember antics revolve almost entirely around trips—either when I studied abroad or free-spirited road trips of college spring break ventures. My old summer camp photos fit this pattern, as well. Sure there’s a part or two in there, but mostly it’s vacation-esque chapters and randoms.
Lastly, I noticed that by comparing my profile to this video, I’ve hardly uploaded photos to my Facebook in the past few years. The memories are there, but mostly attached to the profiles of friends and relatives. According to my Facebook uploads, I’ve only been interested in mustaches, comics and utter nonsense for the last two or three years. While those things have certainly made an impact recently, they haven’t been the only things in my life of late—I promise!
Pummelvision definitely offers a fun and interesting service with these videos, but it really hammered home the differences between an actual life and the digital imprint it leaves behind. What someone’s life looks like on Facebook is really no gauge as to what someone’s life is really like and if my Facebook self were based solely on what I put into it, it would be nothing but sometimes-funny gags and a few nice moments. I mean, Jessi is the most important person in my life, but this Pummelvision made me realize that almost all the pictures we appear in on Facebook were uploaded by her or our mutual friends. She’s the key character in the story of my life (aside from the dashing and handsome leading man, of course) and yet she appears only once in the video. Bizarre.
What have I learned from all this? I don’t know… I guess I need to take more time to capture my own memories and quit expecting people to do it for me. I also shouldn’t take much stock in what I infer from others’ FB accounts. What they could infer from mine is a pretty slim helping of info skimmed right off the top. Pummelvision’s provided a good reminder that what you put online for the public can form a pretty bizarre trail of evidence and information about your life, a trail that’s more a “sort of” shadow instead of an accurate reflection of who and what you actually are. And yet, seeing the strange silhouette my life has left burned into the interwebs was interesting and nostalgia-filled. It may not be entirely flattering, but it was honest.