You have probably heard this question – “What killed more people than shark attacks last year?” I laughed heartily when I heard the the answer: selfie-sticks. Yes, apparently more people died snapping a photo of themselves than were eaten by Jaws. That got me thinking about how much of our experiences are lived through a lens and how much of our time is spent with our faces in our phones. Wouldn’t we have a more complete experience if we weren’t in a hurry to take pictures of everything rather than let our curious eyes and minds soak in what’s around us? We would apparently be safer as well.
I am all in favor of capturing life’s special moments in photos to be enjoyed at a later time – reliving rich experiences is enjoyable. But it seems as though many people are snapping selfies to show everyone where they’ve been without really discovering what the place is all about. They click and move on in a hurry. Selfies have their place – they can be fun. But honestly, do we really need to memorialize the moment we ran into a friend in the restroom of some unexpected place?
Living Through a Lens
Countless times I have been enjoying a glorious view or listening to the ambient sounds at a destination only to look around at others who have their faces in their phones eagerly awaiting the likes, comments, and retweets of the selfies they just posted. Are we really so obsessed with impressing others that we prefer to live our lives through a lens rather than our own curious eyes? This “hey, look at me” type of attitude is prevalent and, in some ways, is killing the experience. Can we simply taste the food, enjoy the view, learn the history, or listen to the music without having to capture it all in a series of shots and videos to post on social media?
Yes, it’s a sign of the times, it’s what people do. But in the midst of living our lives through a lens and feeling special because people respond to our parade of check-ins and posts, isn’t there something more? Is it possible to set the screen aside and see what’s really in front of us?
How to Enjoy
It’s simple. Learn about the places you visit, explore all aspects, and take a moment to make a mental and visual note of what you’re seeing. Pause and think about where you are. Memories of these things will come flooding back when you want them. Desire a photo of you in front of a special site? Ask someone to do it for you so you can actually capture the view, not just your face.
Living a Fantasy
When the obsession to capture ourselves in a photo includes rude or inappropriate behavior, then it really has gone wrong. When visiting New York City last year I spent some time at the 9/11 memorial. It was a place that inspired a serene and thoughtful demeanor in nearly all of the visitors. But in the midst of this somber moment there was a group of young girls giggling and snapping sassy selfies in front of the reflection pools. Had I not cared about the consequences of my actions, I would have liked to give them a shove. I could envision their duck pouts turning to looks of astonishment as they, as well as their phone and selfie stick, tumbled slowly into the water below. If only there were sharks in the pools it would have made my fantasy a more complete experience.