In a world where instagram, tumblr, shapchat, whatsapp, facebook and a plethora of other forms of social media dominate our daily lives, we feel the overwhelming urge to document our experiences. For some, a home-cooked meal is not as enjoyable if it doesn’t look picture perfect. It would feel like a waste to spend the time making such a gourmet treat without snapping a shot to save the memory, and maybe to share it with friends and family, or the world.
But when does the desire to document our memories and save those precious moments actually put those moments at risk of not being savoured? I’ve often been forced to enjoy a concert of one of my favourite bands through the lenses of other people’s smart phones — or even worse, tablets. I’ve then wondered to myself if those people will ever watch the videos again, or if they are simply taken to ‘save the memory’, destined to take up digital space in some forgotten folder on their macbooks which will never be opened again.
Are we really saving these memories for ourselves, or is it a case of ‘pics or it didn’t happen’?
The other option is that these photos and videos are being shared via social media, current day’s leading distributors of depression via comparisons of our lives with the deceptively perfect lives of others. Through the sharing of only the highlights of our lives: concerts, celebrations, holidays, weddings and births, we propagate a false ideal of our experiences.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m having a bad day I don’t share pictures of myself lying on the sofa in sweat pants, eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while I’m watching Jurassic Park for the 47th time. We share the positive times, not always with the conscious intent of making other people envious, but out of a desire to put our best face forward. When we are having a good time, we want to connect with people and share those times with them.
The trouble comes when we can’t experience a moment without taking a photo to document it, without posting a photo via some form of social media.
Imagine yourself sitting on a beautiful beach with a breathtaking orange and red sunset in front of you. Now imagine that you have no form of technology to capture the sunset with. Your camera is in the car. Your phone is out of batteries, and you forgot your powerbank. Could you simply sit there and enjoy the sunset for what it is? If your answer to this question is no, or if even the thought of not having your camera with you makes your blood boil, then it might be time to practice taking some time off from behind the lens.
Even if you are an award-winning photographer, you still need to be able to enjoy the moment that you are living in right now. It doesn’t matter how ‘insta-friendly’ a landscape is if you can’t appreciate the experience of being there. So leave the phone in your pocket when you’re at the next concert, and don’t take a selfie when you’re watching that sunset. Just sit back and soak it in.