We are deep into the Instagram age of feminist memes and hyper-edited selfies, and I am thinking of when iPhone photography first broke onto the scene at my high school in the suburbs. My first encounter with a mupload occurred during one of the first days of my freshman year of high school, and I was idly passing time on Facebook. I saw a photo of two kids from my grade in our school cafeteria, with a caption proclaiming, “lunch mups!” This is the hyper-shortened version of the term ‘muploads’ which is itself a contraction of ‘mobile uploads’ – the default title given to photos posted to Facebook from a cell phone. Both the term and the practice of muploading have become ubiquitous in my high school. Although at the time I thought the owner of the mupload had been the first to use the phrase, urbandictionary.com traces the word back to at least July of 2009. While the cafeteria picture was taken with a (now horribly outdated) Blackberry, mobile uploads are now generally synonymous with iPhone pictures. In high school, at least half of the students in my school owned iPhones, and those who do own them (myself included) tend to have them on their person, within easy reach for muploading, most of their waking hours. Since then, consumption and curation of digital media have increased by bounds, and the mupload has mutated into the super-curated Instagram feed.
The process of muploading took on a life of its own as a social practice at my high school. It’s both a noun and a verb, sometimes a command. You would deliberate, agonize, about which pictures to mupload and what their captions should be. “I’m gonna mup it,” you’d say fondly, reviewing group pictures on your phone screen as your friends look on. The urgency for muploads, interestingly enough, would increase with intoxication. Above the music and chatter of any given social event where there’s alcohol involved, you would invariably hear a call to action as a group of friends pushes together before the flash of a phone screen. “Mupload! Mupload!” A sort of battle cry, a celebratory chant. I’ve taken my share of muploads of drunken near-strangers who didn’t have the heart to leave one of their friends out of the picture. I see it as a sort of civic duty.
There was the friend-just-got-a-drivers’-license mupload (flash picture from the passenger seat, caption reading “stay off the roads everyone!”). The school-dance mupload (you and your friends either holding up ironic peace signs or posing earnestly, picture blurriness in proportion to how drunk you were). The surreptitious classroom mupload, the beach during winter break mupload, the braces-came-off mupload, the someone-got-asked-to-prom mupload, the unabashedly-holding-a-joint mupload. When you post one of these archetypal muploads to your own digital landscape you are paying homage to all who have done so before you. Muploads commemorate milestones, can be a vehicle of pure happiness, because damn, having your teeth unencumbered by metal and cement is something to celebrate.