Photos. Videos. Status updates. The people who accrue the most of these things, despite what their collections try to tell us, live the least.
Why do we take photos? Why do we record videos? For our own enjoyment? I doubt it. Maybe twenty years ago, when photos were something tangible. When they were something that went into a big album and was leafed through in reflective moments with friends and family. When they were something we could hold in our hands.
But now? A photo is just a bit of data, usually hosted on a social network. And social networks are tools we use to connect to others. No. I’m being generous. They’re a tool we use to show off and manufacture an impression of our lives for other’s consumption.
It’s even worse with videos. Do we re-watch a high percentage of the videos we record? No way. Maybe just those special few. But even then, what has it cost you to take that video in the first place?
When you’re at dinner with someone, how do you feel if they spend most of their time tapping and swiping? Feel good? I don’t. I feel annoyed. Like the other person isn’t paying attention. Like they don’t care. It’s impossible to connect to someone in a period fragmented by the presence of such an extraordinarily distracting tool. Who’s to say that using phones doesn’t have the same effect on the things we experience? That recording the concert severs the connection to the concert in the same way a phone creates a barrier between two people at a dinner table? While we capture the experience in digital form, we miss out on feeling the experience in all it’s immensity.
How about, instead of taking pictures of what you’re doing, you just do the thing. How about, instead of recording the celebration, you watch and absorb and become a part of it? Forget about capturing the moment to share it with someone else. Or to revisit it yourself. We all own a time machine. It’s called the mind. Machines like smartphones store data. Our minds store experiences. A smartphone records an event. Our minds record moments.
Or if you’d like a more succinct summary of the above paragraphs, something to take and store for later, try this: Life is something to be lived, not recorded. So put the fucking phone down.