Many people describe millennials as shallow, self-absorbed, and selfie-obsessed. They’re quick to dismiss the selfies, photos of food, and 10-second Snapchat videos. But millennials actually have a lot to teach the rest of us about family history.
I doubt that most millennials would consider themselves family historians (and even fewer would call themselves genealogists). But think about what they’re doing when they take all those pictures of themselves, their friends, and their food. They’re actually documenting their own life.
There are photos out there that millennials probably wouldn’t want their future grandchildren to see. Putting aside the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) selfies, think about all that they are documenting. Parties. Special events. Good times with friends and family. Everyday life.
Consider this: How many photos do you have of your grandparents with their best friends? How many photos do you have of your grandparents’ favorite meal? (Do you even know what their favorite meal was?)
Millennials and Family History
All of this struck me recently while I was on vacation. One afternoon, my daughter and I were taking a short river cruise with my parents. She whipped out her phone and took two selfies with her grandparents.
Then I started paying more attention to what she was taking pictures of. Ice cream cones (they were *huge*!) Seagulls (trying to attack us for said ice cream cones). Boat rides with her cousin.
There was also this gem that she shared on Snapchat. My mom and I were trying so hard to finish the crossword puzzle. (We finally made it, with the help of a Google search.)
But What About Labeling? What About Preservation?
For those of us who have been “doing” family history and genealogy for awhile, we know that we’re supposed to label our photos. We’re supposed to add metadata so that we can find them later and know what they are. But I’ll let you in on a little secret:You can't label a photo that doesn't exist.Click To Tweet
Are any of my daughter’s photos archivally sound? Do they have all of the proper labels? Have they been organized into folders or albums? No. But these photos exist. That’s the crucial first step. We can work on labeling and preservation later.
The Lesson for the Non-Millennials
We don’t need to make duckfaces. We don’t need to take NSFW selfies. But we can take a cue from the millennials in our lives. Take photos. Lots of them. Take photos of your family, your friends, your tough crossword puzzles, and the seagull that’s trying to steal your ice cream cone. Take photos of yourself. Yes, you might feel a bit silly at first. But you know what? Even if you feel silly taking a selfie with your best friend, your descendants could cherish that photo and the glimpse it gives into your everyday life.