It struck me the other day that some parts of social media, the ones that aren’t a noisy platform for political and social rants and raves, are like the old home movies my dad filmed and projected on the living room wall.
That thought came to me as I watched a morning news show on television. And, yes, I understand that it’s terrible 1950s to watch the news on a TV screen instead of dialing up a podcast or an on-the-go news summary by phone. (Somewhere in the background right now, we should hear Ronnie Milsap softly singing “Lost in the Fifties Tonight.”)
Look, I can get my news online just like the hipsters. I do it with the Mitchell Republic all the time. I just find comfort, a sense of order in the universe, in holding an actual newspaper in my hands or watching a televised news broadcast on my own television set in the comfort of my living room. That’s how I grew up. I guess I never outgrew those times.
I continue to tune into the morning newscast even though it has changed from the early days. The news anchors still read serious news stories and do serious news interviews, sure. But they make sure to include a whole bunch of “lighter” segments — in the Capitol press room, the old news dinosaurs among us called such segments “fluffy soft blockbusters” — designed, I’m assuming, to recapture the attention of viewers whose attention spans may have slipped after a run of actual news stories.
The producers of the shows also make sure viewers are treated to several cute stories, such as short videos of leaping cats or tail-chasing puppies or singing, dancing babies. I gather the program producers find those clips on social media. They tend to be the sort of thing a proud parent or pet owner posts to show how adorable their child or pet is.
Many viewers love those clips. They must, or the network wouldn’t keep displaying them. Me? I don't get excited about a video clip of somebody’s child or family dog if I don’t know the child, the parents or the pet. As I impatiently sat through one such clip the other morning, I thought to myself, “Shoot, I might as well be watching Dad’s old home movies. At least I’d recognize some of the people.”
My dad, you see, went through a period in his life — a more extended period than his kids would have preferred — when he did a whole lot of movie making with a hand-held movie camera. Bell and Howell made Dad’s camera, I believe. It had some sort of spring drive, I guess, that made the film advance. I guess that because from time to time Dad had to pause and use a key to wind it up again. It took small rolls of film, 8 millimeter or 16 millimeter, I forget which. Each roll of film took only a few minutes of moving pictures, so the rolls had to be changed frequently.
After he had owned the camera for a time, he tired of the wall as a screen and the constant reel changing. He bought a roll-up screen. That improved the quality of the viewing immensely. He also bought a kit so he could glue the small reels together to make a super-sized reel. After that, we could view hours of home movies, uninterrupted by reel changes. Oh, boy. Dad loved that.
You know how you feel sometimes when you’re looking at someone else’s vacation slides or photographs? I felt that way about some of Dad’s home movies, and those usually involved people and events I recognized — trips to Yellowstone, my big brother climbing a dinosaur on Skyline Drive, my mom chasing us kids out of a fast-running stream, things like that. A family movie night at home, with Dad operating the projector and providing the running commentary, could be torture, figuratively speaking, of course.
In my dad’s defense, he inflicted those clips only on the family. He never broadcast them to the world. Had social media existed at the time, I’m pretty sure he would have.