Is it possible that Outkast is wrong?
"Hey Ya!" is the name of the popular Outkast song, but the chorus of "shake it like a Polaroid picture" is probably what most people identify with the song. In anarticle on Cnn.com, it is pointed out that Polaroid actually recommends that users not shake their Polaroid pictures. I actually went to the Polaroid site to verify this information (it's not that I don't trust CNN, but I had to see for myself. Indeed, in the support area on the site (I don't know if this link will work because the site uses Flash, so I have included the specific click-through instructions), if you click on "Image Trouble" and "Damaged Image," they list the "Cause" as "Picture was fanned or bent after being ejected from the camera." Further, under "Solution," it says "Hold the print by the wide, white border. Handle the print gently. Do not fan, wave or bend the print as it is developing."
Pretty funny because I (and everyone else I know) grew up shaking the Polaroid picture to get the picture to develop faster. My parents taught me to do it. To be honest, I never really thought about the fact that the film didn't really touch the air and so shaking it did not really aid in the development (I don't really remember totally destroying an image by shaking it either). Makes you wonder where the whole idea of shaking came from. Obviously someone was the cause of this phenomenon. I wonder if it wasn't Polaroid (not that I have any proof). Sort of reminds me of the mirrors that they put in elevators; it's not that the mirror makes the elevator ride any faster, it just seems like it when the mirrors are there (i.e., it gives you something to do while riding up the elevator).
As a side note, where did Polaroid use to advise consumers that "fanning" pictures could cause damage? I don't ever remember reading that on the side of a box of Polaroid film (not that I spent a tremendous amount of time reading film boxes).
UPDATE 2/21/04 -- Seems Seth Godin wrote abou this same issue in his blog same time as I did. He also wonders where the shaking came from. Based on the fact that he posted on 2/17, I certainly have to give him credit for reporting on the story first.