By Elizabeth King
Do you ever find yourself scrolling through photos of a day out with friends, but can’t really remember what made the day so special, or even little details about the day’s events? At this point in time, we do very little without taking a photo of it, even if what we’re doing is pretty mundane (we’re all guilty of taking those “I’m just bored” selfies). Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., there is a huge expectation that we will create a visual record of everything we do and share it with anyone who can find us online. The time we spend taking photos means we’re losing the chance to just be in the moment. Here are some really important things we will gain if we can close our camera apps and take some time off from being our own personal photographer.
Direct Connection With Our Experiences
Taking pictures means we’re getting behind an artificial lens, and putting ourselves at a distance from our experience. Because we already put our phones to semi-constant use, it’s easy to just pull it out and start snapping away without realizing that we’re putting a physical barrier between ourselves and our experiences. Of course we love photos because they help us have a strong memory of our activities, but if we are constantly taking pictures of what we’re doing, are we really doing anything? I think we miss out on an authentic connection with our experience when we become preoccupied with capturing an event, rather than actually living in that moment. Sometimes it feels like the strong presence of social media in our day-to-day lives has caused us to think that something isn’t real or important if we don’t take and share a picture of it. By stepping back and thinking less about the pictures we can take, we can really connect with our experiences, instead of watching them from behind our photo app.
A Break From Social Media Maintenance
On my trip home for the winter holidays this year, I went sledding with one of my closest friends from high school. We got to the hill and the first thing we did was mention what a great photo op this would be. As we got in position to take our picture my friend asked, “Do you ever feel like we’re living our lives just to record it on Facebook?” That’s a good question and it definitely stuck with me. The pressure and desire to visually record and more importantly, to share everything we do can be overwhelming. Social media has trained us to crave validation in the form of “likes” from our online community, which can be really stressful! Sometimes it can feel like what we do, who we do it with, or even what we wear aren’t good enough if we don’t get a deluge of hearts or thumbs up from friends online. This puts us in a position where we can end up living our lives based on what other people think is fun or cool, instead of making decisions for ourselves. Removing the strong presence of photos from our everyday lives and activities can give us some space and time away from social media-driven validation that we need in order to get back in touch with our own desires.
More Face-time With People We Care About
We’ve all heard and talked about the anti-social patterns that have become the norm now that texting is our most common form of communication. Our full attention is given to a screen, rather than to the people we’re with. I think the same thing happens when we’re constantly snapping pictures while we’re spending time with others. We’re all guilty of creating opportunities for a perfect picture, then spending a lot of time editing, cropping, choosing filters, perfecting hashtags, and waiting for likes to roll in. But while we’re impatiently awaiting the validation of people who are far away, a whole conversation is happening right in front of us, and we’re missing it. Saying no to our cameras while we’re with friends is a great way to remain present and engaged, and show that we value the time we are spending together.
Our relationship with technology is a tricky one, and camera features on our phones are no exception. Similarly to the struggles we have with too much texting, it can be hard to know how much is too much when it comes to taking pictures. A good way to figure out where we should draw the line in our own lives is to honestly ask ourselves why we’re going to take that next snapshot. Is it because something wonderful is happening and we want to have that memory, or is it because we feel compelled to do so because of external expectations and pressure? If we can all challenge ourselves to resist the urge to take and share tons of photos, my guess is that we will find ourselves in the moment more often, and will have a deeper sense of satisfaction with how we choose to spend our time. So the next time we find ourselves itching to snap a reel of pictures, let’s try to remember that our own eyes are the best way to see the world.
Elizabeth King is a mid-20s environmentalist, feminist, dog and Futurama-loving writer, and non-profit lady warrior living in Chicago, Illinois. She is also working to bring back the low-five.