Soul-stealing pal-parazzi

It is said that people once feared the camera as a wicked contraption designed for stealing human souls. It seems that they may have been correct.

The omnipresent pal-parazzi are stealing social lives and, in a sense, souls. They trample all over friendships to ignore “please don’t post these pics; I am a private person” and publicly blow apart the “sorry I can’t make it to your dance party; I can’t dance” excuses with a single Facebook footloose shot. This problem is so prevalent that CNN contacted etiquette expert Anna Post in December for a look at The etiquette of constant photos, Facebook .

Let’s put aside the public gatherings, press clubs, awards ceremonies or other occasions during which one has essentially invited the photo call, and is in fact thrilled to be recognized for a legitimate achievement.

The holiday season has brought a resurgence in guerilla photography. I’m fairly strait-laced, most of the time, but I can thaw my frost-queen roots with close friends and truly dance as if nobody is watching. The problem is, they are watching. And then I find myself on somebody’s Facebook page above a smug “busted!” observation, and the soul of that friendship has been stolen, too.

Recently I broke a personal embargo and attended a large private gathering. I spent the evening dodging cameras and lurking quietly with small groups of good friends who, while gently teasing me about it, allowed me to hide behind them anyway when the evil soul-stealing-cameras approached.

And then I was caught – lured into what I understood to be a personal memory-of-the-evening portrait with other friends, which was then splashed all over social media with a verbal “gotcha, get over it” message the next day. While we were able to patch this up after an intense conversation, the friend in question still fails to understand my discomfort. “You are a public figure now – and this is the world we live in.”

Does it matter that none of these photos is compromising? No. Even if someone is a public figure (I am certainly not), and acknowledging that indeed “it’s a new world,” this is not what is under discussion. What I loathe in finding my true self pictorially kidnapped is the betrayal – the stealing of my soul and the soul of our friendship. When a friend’s loyalty to Facebook overrides our privately shared memories, it’s time to un-friend in real life.

The obvious answer lies in not attending large private gatherings; hence, my embargo. I have a no-photos rule in social events which I host – small informal evenings that give everyone a chance to put up their feet, literally and figuratively, without fear of landing a holy sock on the social equivalent of a New York Times cover. And wonder of wonders, people love these get-togethers. They are safe in these warm, relaxing little groups where the only ones saying “cheese” are those requesting the Brie.

My friends are not party favors for Facebook pages, and our souls should not be stolen. Dare I declare, “Get over it”?


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