The other day, I told some friends about the time that I jumped off a cliff. Now, it was easy to remember: I was with my high school class, and I was the only one, practically, who did not know how to swim. However, since the rest of the guys were already down in the nice small cove next to the cliff, I figured, what the heck, salt water will make me float anyway. Therefore, I put down the camera that I was holding, and then took a leap. I ended up splashing rather loudly into the water, and then learned to dog-paddle as a matter of survival.
As I was telling the story, one of my friends interrupted, and said, “pics or it didn’t happen!”
My instant reaction was disbelief. I mean, why would I lie to them about this? And then people started laughing, and saying it was a great story. That one guy still kept on saying, “No pics, it never happened.” Now, you can imagine my annoyance at this. Then I realized: People these days, they really do need proof from the real world.
Words are words
The first thing that older people have to realize is that this is a reaction to the fact that in the Internet, anyone can claim to have done anything. After all, it’s all just sentences on the screen, or people talking through webcams. The ability to lie or present a false story as a form of a joke is too easy for some people. And that’s why the more incredulous a claimed situation or achievement is, the more that you will have the chance of someone saying, “Pics or it didn’t happen.”
Some people might already be thinking: isn’t this a loss of trust in communication? And the answer would be both a yes and a no. It would be a loss of trust, if you qualify that many people now think of narrators as inherently flawed, or subject to the temptation of exaggerating their stories. On the other hand, it may not necessarily be a loss of trust, as it is a simple presentation of proof: they want to believe, and they want to be sure.
After all, if you interact in a virtual world, what you need are logs, photos and other sorts of unquestionable proof to make sure that what was claimed is actually true.
Truth can be stranger than fiction
These days, another possible explanation is that people find it too easy to limit themselves and their perceptions of others. It makes them uncomfortable to find out that the neighborhood geek actually went to Patagonia one summer to accompany an uncle who just happens to be an archeologist. In order to rewrite what they think of the person (which, in effect, means that they have to change their belief values for that person), they need to see that what they are about to do is worth the change in viewpoint.
I had a personal experience about this sort of thing, once. I was talking with some alumni friends about how my band had been playing some rather small, open-air gigs. Now, considering that I was one of the outsiders in the batch, this was met with some disbelief. Luckily, I did have some photos on my laptop, so I happily pulled up a photo of me performing with my band in an open-air gig in the Ortigas area.
It took a few seconds, I think, for them to realize that high school and college were years ago, and that people can change – for the better. I didn’t take it against them. After all, if I told my younger self that he would be playing open-air events with a metal band, I’m sure I would have asked for pics, myself.
The binary state: The cat in the box
Now, we’ve all heard about Schrodinger’s Cat, the famous physics thought experiment, that stated that a cat in a box is neither alive nor dead (having had poison gas introduced into the box) until the probabilities collapse by opening the box, wherein the cat would be alive (albeit weakly and sick), or dead.
It seems that younger generations want to avoid probabilities when it comes to their understanding of people. It’s both endearing – in that they want to understand people more – and at the same time disturbing, since it seems that they do not wish to simply leave certain things as is, and take the word of the person as truth. In other words, they wish the cat to be either dead or alive, to have pics to prove a fact, or have none at all and forever call the event into question.
A mask for not wanting to believe
Another way to look at this is that people don’t want to believe certain things. It’s a natural defense, or a way to harass people whom they do not think has been telling the truth. Now, in many cases, a bluff can be successfully called out with the declaration of photographic proof. However, the fact is, for other people, it’s more about forcing the other person’s hand. In this sense, the demand for photographic proof becomes a challenge – and most of the time, a personal one. It puts into doubt the very reputation of the person, because the fact is, people wouldn’t use the photo challenge if they were sure that the other side wouldn’t have any proof.
Pictures worth a thousand words
So where does that leave us, when it comes to the saying “pics, or it didn’t happen”? Well, on the part of narrators, it’s probably a good idea to have proof for the story you want to talk about, or, you should make it clear that it’s a yarn that you’re telling. On the other hand, for those who will be listening, unless you know the person really well, it may be a good idea to refrain from demanding photographic (or the equivalent of) proof, since all it will do, if said wrong, is put a negative shade to an otherwise entertaining and amusing time.
It’s something to think about, really: that the younger generations now have a harder time either trusting the narrator, or giving the benefit of the doubt. Is human nature becoming more machine-like, or are we simply learning that not everything can be trusted at face value, particularly when it comes to virtual reality and unreliable narrators? Whatever the case may be, it’s a sure bet that demanding photos or other kinds of unquestionable evidence will be a part of normal conversations from this point on.