How many of you had a diary or scrapbook as a child? A place to scribble random thoughts and dreams; record the day’s events; stick the odd blurry photograph and doodle little pictures?
How many of you still have a journal today? I’m guessing not too many.
One glance around any book or stationery shop shows that modern journals are designed to help schedule our busy lives, rather than record memories.
But I was a child of the 80’s. The FunFax generation and I loved to journal (I still do!)
For those of you sitting scratching your heads, a FunFax was basically a funky Filofax planner for kids - kids who didn’t actually have anything to plan, but who HAD to have one, even if the only thing they did with it was store their school friend’s birthdays, phone numbers and flick through the jokes, quizzes and stickers contained.
From the Funfax point on, I fell in love with journals, notebooks, pretty stationary and the whole concept of keeping a diary in one form or another - My most precious possessions being my photographs and of course, my digital journals; Facebook and Instagram.
In 2004, Facebook burst onto the scene and by 2007, almost everyone I knew (including me) had an account and were posting captions and photographs.
Facebook fast became the diary for people who didn't keep diaries. Easy and convenient – albeit not very private, but we all got used to that.
Then in 2010, Instagram made an appearance - The fastest growing social media platform. It’s focus being communicating via the sharing of creative photography, rather than updating family and friends about your new job or night out.
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram opened the door to a much more convenient type of journaling. Digital journaling. Almost no effort required.
Social media platforms became the new social hubs for people whose lives were busier than ever before and who just didn’t have time to go out and meet people in the real world.
They were online worlds where you went to keep in touch with old school friends, far-flung family members and share details of your life with all of them, at the touch of a button, without ever leaving the house.
Their popularity grew alongside the advancements in smartphone technology and all of a sudden, everyone and their Mother had an account; taking and sharing photographs - Age proving not to be a barrier to platforms that prided themselves on being intuitive to use and inclusive for all.
Suddenly, address and birthday books became rather obsolete. Gifts for Grandma perhaps, but not for us. Writing down friend’s phone numbers was totally unnecessary (until you lost or broke your phone of course).
Roll on 2019; the year it dawned on many of us that our social media accounts might not be the safest places to store all our beloved memories.
The year both Facebook and Instagram became worryingly unreliable and #InstagramDown became a trending hashtag on Twitter.
Go to log into Instagram or Facebook, try to refresh your feed and ……. Nope.
Cannot load. Cannot refresh. Ugh! Not again!
Of Course, Facebook and Instagram have never been 100% secure - most of us know someone whose account has been hacked and we’re all used to our accounts becoming a bit glitchy every time the algorithm is updated or ‘improvements’ are made behind the scenes, but in 2019 these updates got a bit out of hand.
Instagram itself ended up being down three times in July alone and if you were anything like me, you quickly learned to stop panicking every time you lost access to your account.
You just headed straight over to Twitter for those first reports of Facebook and Instagram malarkey.
For the first time, many of us became acutely aware of how flaky these platforms could be. We also became aware that we were dealing with an almost faceless organisation, with no customer service help or support department to speak of.
Social media may be the most convenient form of scrapbooking and sharing, but what if you lost it all? There’s not even anyone to reach out to for help!
When I look at my own Facebook account, I see memories stretching back over a decade. Weddings, Births, christenings, old jobs, new jobs, significant firsts - first teeth, first steps, first birthdays. I see love, loss and every mundane detail I thought was important at the time in between.
Mundane details that were important to me at the time. That build-up clear, visual memories.
Photos combined with captions, conversations, and comments from those that we loved and those that we lost along the way.
It’s terrifying that I’ve poured a decade of memories into something that could just disappear overnight with no form of appeal.
So, I decided to do something about it. To step back a couple of decades and scrapbook it all. Making physical copies of my online world.
Because even if it does take up a ton of space; bar flood fire or theft, at least all those memories are safe.
But where to begin? That’s an awful lot of photographs. Into the thousands!
Well actually, it’s not as overwhelming as I first thought.
Really early on, I realised that it was going to be a bit of a long term project. It was never going to be something I’d knock out in a weekend.
So where to begin?
Here are a few notes on my process, just in case you’d like to do the same thing.
Printing my photos:
I decided straight off that I wanted my Facebook journal to really ‘look’ like a vintage journal.
When I was about 18, my husband bought me a Polaroid camera (long gone) as a bit of a gimmick. We were living in a shared house with friends and I fell in love with that fun, instant 70’s style and the fact that you could write dates and notes under each photograph.
I really had 3 options.
1. I could print the individual photos myself using my printer and cut them out – well that was going to take about a million years.
2. I could buy one of the mini Polaroid printers.
At the time of writing, a quick search showed that I could buy a Polaroid Zip Mobile printer for £90, an Instax Link Smartphone printer for £109, or a HP Sprocket for around £70.
All three allow wireless printing straight from a mobile phone, so they’d be great for printing out photos at the right size and journaling on the go, but for me, with a 10-year backlog, it would still take a very long time and be quite pricy – They don’t require ink, but they do need special paper which costs around 40 pence a print (average).
These printers are all small and conveniently portable. Some of the paper is sticky-backed, so no glue which is a nice touch. They’re wireless, easy to set up and you can print directly from your phone, so they’d be a perfect solution for printing on the go, but that wasn’t really what I was looking for.
3. Finally, (the option I decided to go for).
For years now, we’ve been having family photo books printed by a company called Photobox.
Photobox (along with several other photo printing companies), now offer an option to print your photos out as polaroid style prints – or Retro Prints as they call them.
They do work out at 40 pence a shot, but they regularly have huge sales.
At this moment in time, they have 40% off, so individual photos are only 24 pence!
Not only that, but you can link your Photobox account to your Facebook account to import all your Facebook photos direct, a clever feature that could save days of work.
Mine imported in the same files I have in my Facebook account making them really easy to look through.
Once imported you simply go through and quickly select the photos you’d like to print and wait for them to arrive in the post.
The prints all have space for you to write a date or comment under the actual photo, just like old fashioned Polaroid prints.
Choosing an album, scrapbook or journal
This is really totally up to you. You can choose to buy an old fashioned style photograph album or a journal, but whatever you choose, there are a couple of things to consider.
I knew that I’d need several albums to span the whole 10 years and that I’d want them to match so they looked like a collection.
If you want a set of books that will look nice on a shelf together, try to choose something that you know you will be able to buy again when needed.
Make sure you choose something with enough pages! Particularly if you want a book to contain (for example), one entire year of photos.
Have a quick count up of your photos.
One way around this is to choose a ring binder style book, where you can buy extra refill pages if needed. Just make sure your book is a standard size (A5 or A4), so the refills are easy to find.
If you want to be able to draw, paint, write around or annotate your photos, choose something with good quality paper that is thick enough to write on in ink or paint.
Otherwise, the ink will either bleed through and spoil previous pages, or you will end up with wasted pages you can’t use because of the run-through.
For me, annotating my photos with the Facebook captions and comments was a must.
If you can see visible ghosting from a previous page, don’t start tearing pages out. You can easily cover them with other photos; drawings, decorative washi tape or other embellishments.
If you want to avoid this completely, write your captions or draw any pictures onto separate pieces of paper and stick them in alongside your photos. Decorative post-it notes are a cute option.
Choosing a theme:
The fun bit! The absolute best thing to do here is to hop on over to Instagram or Pinterest and have a quick search for bullet journals.
You’ll find pages of inspiration, whatever your personal style by searching under Instagram hashtags such as:
Once you’d decided on your own personal style, it’ll be a lot easier to choose decorations to match your chosen theme, but here a few basics@
Waterproof adhesive stick-glue (eg; Prit Stick) – for sticking in photos and embellishments without any mess. Liquid PVA style glues are not a great idea as they can bleed through your paper and if they get onto your photos, can make the ink run.
Washi tape – For sticking things to your photobook and for making decorative borders around page edges and photos. It comes in a huge variety of colours and with different patterns.
It also comes in different widths, usually 8mm and 15mm which are both useful and it’s low tack, so easy to remove without tearing your paper or photos if necessary.
A variety of pens and pens and pencils.
Personally, I love Faber Castell PITT artist pens with different nibs (smudge-proof and waterproof when dry), Sakura Pigma Micron pens with different nibs including fine-line and in different colours and Tombow dual tip brush pens.
Also watercolour pencils and Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour paints, but that’s just because I enjoy painting.
A ruler is essential to make sure everything’s straight. Stencils are a “nice to have”, particularly if you want shapes like hearts, circles, and squares to be identical.
Embellishments – There are a plethora of journaling decorations and accessories available both online and on the high street. It’s become so popular that even shops such as The Works have got in on the act, selling washi tape, decorative post-it notes and paper packs; shaped paper clips, ribbons and stickers. Consider looking at Hobbycraft or for the widest selection, head over to Etsy.
Make your own! There’s absolutely no reason at all why all your photobook decorations have to be shop bought. Print out some maps of the places in your photographs, press some flowers or just print out pictures of things you like that suit your theme.
A quick roundup:
Of course, you don’t actually need to buy loads of equipment or accessories to create a beautiful Facebook photo book. This stuff is all totally optional and I’ve only listed some things that I find useful for the people who are interested.
The only things you’ll really NEED are a photo book, the photos, a glue stick, ruler and a half-decent pen with ink that won’t run.
To start your photo book, just make sure your photos are in date order (they “should” come printed this way).
To make it a less daunting task, you can add them into sections, maybe months of the year with title pages.
Add dates to the photos so they don’t get mixed up.
Add captions alongside your photos to explain what everything is and add comments straight from Instagram or Facebook if you like.
And then you’re good to go.
Facebook and Instagram are already amazing online journals, mapping out our journey through the years.
We only tend to make the effort to post our most significant moments and memories. The things we really want to remember and don’t mind sharing with the world.
So they’re both full of the most perfect content to fill physical photobooks.
And of course, a photo book is a physical backup – just in case anything ever went wrong online.
My only question is why I never thought of doing it before.
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