Every few months I accidentally catch a glimpse of my computer desktop (which I usually keep obscured with eight overlapping windows) and realize it

Seeing Without Looking

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Style Pass
2022-01-14 22:00:08

Every few months I accidentally catch a glimpse of my computer desktop (which I usually keep obscured with eight overlapping windows) and realize it’s time to deal with the damn screenshots. This time there are 168 of them, captured at a rate of about five per day, the unevenly sized png files piling up across the desktop because I never bothered to change the folder. What do people do with their old screenshots? Just bin them? Not me. I review each one in case there’s a snippet of essential documentation or a glimmer of genius captured in the pile of weird fragments.

Here we go: A small bit of clipped text that reads “creative class chore-coats” in a serif font (keep). An awkwardly cropped photo of Daniel Day Lewis riding the subway, wearing head-to-toe Carhartt and texting on a flip phone (keep). A picture of a Skype chat log where I or the other person did a funny typo (toss). A square of saturated red with a hex code underneath (toss). An image of a bad tweet from an annoying venture capitalist (keep, unfortunately). Most of the files go in the trash. A few of them go into a folder on the desktop labelled “Screencaps to keep.”

This review process is similar to that of looking through photos on my phone — of which there are also a million, good and bad and ephemeral — but these days I have less and less reason to look through my phone’s photo reel. Why bother, when Apple assesses each photo automatically, analyzing the images and categorizing them so I can call up a date or a place, or choose to look only at selfies or photos of food. The phone and the iCloud account it’s connected to can hold great volumes, and the logic of “keep ’em all, and let god (the algorithm) sort it out” has superseded the sorting and assessing of years past.

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