The yearbook is dead. From high schools through college – and maybe not a few elementary schools – the well-regarded and long-cherished document preserving life before adulthood expired.
A victim, first, of Myspace, with the final nail in its coffin being Facebook.
Along with it went the practice of posing for formal portraits at the conclusion of higher education and higher-higher education.
And along with that, the discriminatory practice of portrait attire.
Whereas girls were compelled to dress head to foot in their “good” dress outfit for such sittings; boys could get away with upper-body only formality: coat, tie and dress shirt accompanied by boxers below.
This thanks to the fact that such pictures were invariably framed as shoulder-shots.
Yearbooks were comprised of carefully crafted narratives telegraphing self-reported key accomplishments (Key Club, for instance) and highlighting significant memories.
The yearbook preserved a moment in time. A document to which one might return over and over, as one pleased, each time “discovering” something new.
At once nostalgic, maudlin and uplifting, the yearbook was a timeless source of time-bound memories.
Well before Facebook arrived, a colleague anticipated it, though in the form of a college yearbook. Calling his idea a “Time Book” – two words – he enthusiastically described the digital device’s heuristic advantages. Not the least of which was the opportunity to update, refresh and reform one’s ongoing autobiography.
Very forward-thinking. Really. Even though, as things turned out, it might have been better named the Right Here, Right Now Book.
To what extent is Facebook a substitute for the yearbook?
Is the steady stream of timeline posts, shares and links a better – certainly it is a broader – accounting of oneself? Is there such a thing as too many cute puppies or kitty-cats?
LinkedIn claims to be the social network (yearbook) for one’s professional life. A place to make outrageous claims about one’s skills and abilities, certificates and certifications, and have each endorsed by people with no way of knowing about any of it. Or worse, positively endorsed abilities and skills about which no one cares.
Sometimes, usually when bored by and as respite from the endless shelves of glassware displayed for sale at antiques malls, I thumb through old yearbooks.
Professionally, I justify the waste of time thinking I’ll uncover a collectible of monetary merit: Marilyn’s or, just as good, Joe DiMaggio’s. I don’t. And I won’t.
And still, the handheld experience of gazing at anonymous faces, perfectly posed and accompanied by the briefest biography, is engaging. Portraits fixed in time, now in the hands of an unintended reader lacking any context and yet capable of producing a pleasurable experience.
Long live the yearbook.
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