The sun had gone down hours ago, and the world around me had already fallen asleep. My street had almost no streetlights, and the dark outlines of the shapes outside my windows barely breached the inky blackness. People walking by were rare and at times were the only sound besides the light wind gently flowing through the yearning leaves of the tree outside.
I sat on my couch, watching television with the lights off. This was back in the days of when people still watched cable programming regularly, and I had been captivated by a movie on Showcase called “The Ninth Gate”. Johnny Depp played a fairly convincing antique book shark thrown into a job a little over his head, and the story was brilliantly executed in typical Roman Polanski style. It was the perfect late night movie, where the paranoia and bizarre mental tangents the sleep-craving brain normally have at this time could be sated on the screen.
The credits in the beginning informed me that the movie was based on a book: “The Club Dumas” by a Spaniard, Arturo Perez-Reverte. It wasn’t until fairly recently that the book was given to me as a Christmas present and I had begun to read it.
There’s a reason they say “read the book before watching the movie”. The book was great, the imagery and characters were fantastic. But for me, the images of the book had already been formed. The coarse character of Dean Corso had already been interpreted and the setting had already been born into the flesh.
I couldn’t help but recall what I had already seen rather than imagine the eccentric characters and locations throughout the book for myself. My imagination had been robbed of the opportunity to paint the book for me, resorting to the crutch of the already seen.
That is how I feel about the imagination’s kryptonite of our time — travel oversharing. Let me give you, my faithful reader, an example.
Go to your Facebook news feed and look up someone who has gone on vacation. More likely than not you will find an endless stream of photos.
When that friend comes back, the picture has already been painted for anyone unlucky enough to have seen it. The travel stories will lose some of their lustre, and the image of those cobblestone streets or majestic minarets or sandy beaches will already by firmly implanted in the listener’s ear.
Like Dean Corso will always be Johnny Depp in my head, the captivation of imagination will be gone from the travel narrative.
Some might say that people have been doing this forever, when they bring back a big batch of photos that they promptly share with everyone as soon as the roll of film is developed. But at least in that case, the story accompanies the images. As they show you that samovar they saw in St. Petersburg, they describe to you the context in which they interpreted it in (not to mention how the tea out of it tasted). The disconnect between images on social media and the story later adds to the removal of the most important part of the photo — what it means in both the broad sense but also to the person that was there.