I do not have an Instagram account, nor do I want one. On Facebook I’ve uploaded a measly number of photos in my five or so years of having an account. On my twitter feed, there are just 18 photos. It’s not that I don’t believe in photos, it’s just that I don’t seem to have been caught up in the epidemic that is photographing every moment of my life, yet.
We see them everywhere, in the hands of concert-goers, tourists, friends, business-people, bankers, and celebrities – our smartphones. Connected to the wondrous phenomenon that is the World Wide Web, everyone seems to be snapping selfies and filming every little thing that happens. Not to imply this is a bad thing; it’s wonderful that technology allows us to so readily share images of our life. However, all things in moderation, right? It’s the people that are dangerously attached to Snap-Chatting their dog chasing his tail, or those desperate to Instagram the pretty landscape they’ve just discovered, and those adamant they need to take a selfie with the Leaning Tower of Pisa that baffle me. Seeing all these moments through the screen of their iPhones surely means that they’re missing the actual thing, and life through a lens is not the same.
Let me give an example, one which has stuck with me. A number of years ago, on my gap yah I was in Paris with friends. Paris, being the most visited city in the world, was absolutely bursting with tourists, all enjoying the sun, the city and atmosphere. Sounds Idyllic, but for me, up in Montmartre, that atmosphere seemed somewhat confused. I hadn’t heard of that particular region of Paris prior to this, but my companions, as well as every other visitor to the city, apparently had. It was absolutely rammed, and the tiny historic streets bottlenecked us in like cattle. Most were uniformed with little bum-bags and tacky sunglasses, lathered in sun cream. Within this crowd, very few people were actually looking at the picturesque cafe in the 400 year old mill. No eyes looked at the street performer. The grand church atop the hill avoided almost everyone’s gaze. None of these things, however, escaped the lens. The click of camera shutters filled these streets. Admittedly, the majority of the tourists did look at the physical subjects of their photos before taking the snap, but I doubt if they really saw more than a thing to photograph. It unnerved me so much that in my teenage-self-discovery-through-travel soul I wrote a song about it. Yeah. That’s how unnerved I was. A song.
But hark! I hear you cry, how else will they remember their holiday? How else indeed? It’ll be nearly impossible for them to discuss their memories with their friends and families…won’t it? Well, storytelling is the best way to recall I’ve often found. Plus, have you ever sat through someone’s holiday photos? “Here’s us at the place, oh and that’s the people we met. Here’s that famous building that there are a million, far better quality pics of on google…” Besides, with so much time looking through a lens, what is there to remember? The same goes for concerts, parties and going for a coffee in Soho. If one sees life through a lens to share it on the internet, is it really making the most of it? And don’t even get me started on forcing ‘funny’ things to happen so that you can Instagram it with #sorandom #livinglife2k14 #barejokes #yolo.
I am not suggesting we throw away the cameras, maybe just exercise some restraint. When you’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, do take a group photo and another few of the view but then use your eyes to see yourself actually standing on top of the world. And when you’re in a London cafe with friends and something hilarious happens, enjoy it! Don’t kill that spontaneity by scrambling for the camera app on your phone. Take photos, and share them, because the world loves that apparently, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes the words might be worth it.