Facebook has recently rolled out a feature set called, “On This Day.” It’s probably one of my favorite enhancements to my newsfeed because it collates social media content from one’s own account and allows some private self-reflection. Sometimes I think in our constant sharing, it is easy to overlook explanation and context with the imagery and videos we create. We strive to tell stories visually, but they do not resonant for long because they are only visceral. They lack real substance.
Having worked in social media since its inception, I’ve always been extremely cognizant what I put out there in the world, especially when it comes to an ever-changing and judgmental audience. And I’ve accepted that putting out imagery without context is one method of participation without oversharing. But the downside of it is that sometimes it leaves the creative process incomplete. It’s like writing constant drafts and never finishing any stories.
I was thinking about this looking at a bunch of photos from Uros Island in Peru. About five or six years ago, I was given a copywriting assignment to rewrite some luxury travel itineraries around the world. Most of the facts were there, but the original copy was written in an awful and confusing shorthand. My job was to craft clear copy and make the trip more evocative.
Peru has been a country on my radar since I was in college. One of my favorite classes at UCLA was a seminar called “War and Peace.” Every member of the class received a current conflict and it was their responsibility to write a complete analysis of it from a modern historical perspective. We were assigned conflict randomly. We drew them out of a hat. My stub of paper simply said, “Peru.” This was in the mid-90s when the Maoist guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso was in full power. I spent about 2 months reading as much as I could about them. I remember thinking the conflict sounded untenable; the violence was brutal, everyone seemed corrupt. Peru looked like such a beautiful country, but I never thought it would be a safe place to even visit.
I hadn’t thought much of Peru until I had to rewrite this luxury itinerary around 2010. It was in the footnotes of Day 8 of a 9 day trip that I read, “Visit Uros Island, one of the last remaining monocultures, on the highest navigable lake in the world.”
Sometimes one sentence will shift your perspective. It will force you to ask yourself questions about your own ignorance. It will make you want to travel to find out the answers.
I spent the next several years trying to figure it out.