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Once the average 13-year old girl figured out she could post a picture of an old chair, slap a thought-provoking but irrelevant quote underneath it and post it to Instagram, life for professional photographers everywhere changed. “Phoneography,” the neologism that describes the creation of photos that have been both shot and processed on an iOS device, has not only given consumers the ability to instantly post snap-worthy pictures with new, advanced iPhone cameras, it has forced professional photographers to compete with amateurs for their jobs. As a result, the democratization of photography has actually sent the industry into a nosedive. In an interview with “The New York Times,” professional photographer Matt Eich commented on how, now that potential audiences can scroll through Instagram six times a day, the field has become hopelessly saturated. “There was a path,” Eich said, in reference to making a career out of photography, “but there isn’t one anymore.” According to recent statistics, the percentage of people who practice professional photography has decreased 15 percent since 2010, the year that Instagram debuted. Not only is Instagram reducing the public’s appreciation for traditional photography, it’s replacing the medium with what is increasingly becoming a haven for native advertising, a method of commodification in which, as sponsors pay to incorporate their products into pictures, the photos subtly become ads. Gabrielle Epstein, a 21-year old model with more than 700,000 followers,


on the daily. The kissy face does any flirting for you, the thumbs up informally agrees and the smiling poop fills any virtual voids of silence. The argument that emojis help smartphone communicators relay a more nuanced message is valid. And the Oxford Dictionary was not wrong in saying “The ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.” A picture is worth a thousand words, and this thumbtack-sized image captured the year’s zeitgeist. But outside of social media, emojis are hurting students’ ability to communicate using only words. One project, “Emoji Dick,” attempted to merge the worlds of social media and STUDYBREAKS.COM

makes her living as an “Instagram model.” By taking pictures that promote clothing, make-up and jewelry lines, Epstein makes more money by posting a selfie than most models make working four days straight. Other women in Epstein’s field can make up to $50,000 a picture. By paying models to furtively promote their products, companies gain access to an audience of millions, many of whom are unaware they are being manipulated. It should come as no surprise, then, that the number of Instagram photos shared at New York Fashion Week increased from the year before by more than 193 percent. To companies, the math is simple: More pictures of their products means more exposure, which in turn means more profit. Are these Instagram models trying to destroy photography? Absolutely not. But in the same way Facebook became increasingly commercial over the years, so too will Instagram (which is owned by Facebook). Unlike its mother company though, Instagram began as an artistic medium, one that democratized the field of photography; now though, that egalitarianism is beginning to look more like cannibalism than democracy. So when it dies, when the last illusion of artistry fades away and the app simply be-comes a marketplace funded by advertisement, where then will we go for photography?


academia by rewriting Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” in emojis. Hoping to be on the hip side of history, the Library of Congress requested a copy— but the cartoonized translation would hold little meaning without the context of the classic. Maybe emojis don’t spell out the doom of all 19th century novels, but an unsettling possibility is that they could transcend text messages into a logographic language of their own. The one-tap ease of emojis makes for lazier and less precise communication, which could later leak into essays and articles. “The other day I was writing a paper and thought, ‘What’s the word for that emoji?’” admitted an friend of mine who is a student at MIT.

The next generation of college students utilizes emojis profusely during the nine hours a day they spend engaged with media, and 55 percent of those teens communicate predominantly through texting. Teens and college students spend more time interacting with the perfectly spherical faces of the emoji keyboard than they do with the fleshy visages of their friends. By using emojis so heavily in all their non-academic communication, students’ collegiate writing is sure to fall short when they cannot lean on the crutch of the cutesy characters. While technology is indubitably evolving, could it be that students’ grasps on linguistics are devolving? NOVEMBER 2016 //


Study Breaks Magazine November Austin  
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