A photo used to be an event.
You planned for it. ("Remember to bring Dad's Instamatic. Is there much film left? Did you bring new flashcubes?")
You worked for it. ("Now I will drive this single roll of film to the drug store, then wait patiently for a week until it is developed. Only then will I be able to tell if everybody has their eyes open and Ricky gave his sister rabbit ears again.")
You valued it. ("Now we will organize photos according to date and occasion in an album, which will be brought out for viewing on special occasions.")
Compare that to today, when digital photos and smartphones have made photography as easy as a wink.
The average 11-year-old has already taken more photos in a month than your parents took throughout the first 23 years of their marriage. We capture images of absolutely everything — from that weird-looking spider bite to that ridiculously complex Wi-Fi password.
Sometimes we take photos without even realizing we're doing so. Photography has become so ubiquitous and effortless that it's easy to do that — and to perhaps even post it to Instagram and send it to everyone on your contacts list before you've even realized it.
One of my personal favorites is the accidental selfie. It's nothing like the deliberate selfie, in which your hair looks perfect, your chin is tilted at a fetching angle and you've posed yourself in a golden and flattering light.
That's the Cinderella-at-the-ball shot.
But the accidental selfie? No way. Bad light, shoulders hunched over in a Quasimodo pose, shadows under eyes, chin down so far that it has pooled into no fewer than three chins. Perhaps, as an added flourish, there is a sweltering pimple or an unplucked chin hair.
It's pure wicked stepsister. More "frightie" than selfie.
Although I usually delete these crimes against pixels as soon as they are taken, I live in fear that I will someday accidentally post them. Facebook already helpfully lists the most recent photos you've taken, and my heart sometimes skips a vanity-soaked beat as I briefly panic that they have been posted to the public.
My most recent plunge into cinéma vérité occured after I exchanged a private message with a male Facebook friend. A full 15 minutes after I thought I hung up, I received the following string of mortifying messages.
"Tammy, you turned your camera on.
Then: "That's a nice pair of jeans."
And then: "Does that pink jacket come in my size?"
Appallingly: "Walking down the street."
"Sorry, not trying to be creepy. This is kind of funny though."
"Atomic? Back outside."
"Going to stop at the Pickled Parrot for a drink? It's 5 o'clock somewhere."
"I'm relieved you haven't resorted to mid-day Happy Hour. Nice day for a walk at least."
"Back in the office."
And then, mercifully, a message: "Nate stopped viewing your video."
Thankfully this happened before I visited the bathroom.
All I know is that there needs to be some kind of app. This app would detect whenever a camera has been unintentionally activated. It would then instruct your phone to burst into flames.
Or, if you purchased the premium version, it could take it one step farther.
Like automatically enrolling you in a Witness Protection Program.
We could call it Cinéma Scare-Away.
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at email@example.com.