February Focus: Day 25
My co-workers were discussing how many photos they had on their phones the other day. One said 20,000. Another estimated 50,000. “What the hell are you all taking pictures of?!” I shrieked. Then I remembered they all have social lives they want to remember. Or at least share on social media. I’m not the same. At least anymore. The only things I want to document are beautiful landscapes and insanity in my city. As far as I’m concerned, I never need another photo taken of myself ever again. I don’t need it. I don’t want to be at a place and think I need to get pictures of it. I just want to be present without worrying about who else needs proof of my good time.
There was an old anecdote I heard where people in ancient tribes would forego getting their pictures taken because they worried the camera would capture their souls. I always thought that was kind of weird, but I’m starting to understand it a little more. Broadly speaking on how we take our pictures, the posing and stiltedness of it all does have a sense of soullessness to it. Maybe it didn’t use to be this way, but the more we hold events and stage scenarios for the ‘gram or the ‘tok, the more these snapshots can distill a natural life.
I’ve really been embracing my inner cynic these days. Sometimes people just enjoy taking pictures. I get that. I’m not trying to deter anyone from doing so. These are just things I notice the more social media becomes the driving force in people’s lives. Perhaps there’s some value in not documenting everything we do. If you go out to dinner with friends, does Instagram need to know? It’s not like you didn’t have the experience if you didn’t take a picture of it. Is it not appealing to just be in the moment without having to stop it to pose about it?
All this feels ironic to write about considering how much we’re on camera anyway. There’s security cameras around every single corner in Manhattan. I had to verify myself with a selfie in order to get my Uber car rental. I’m being recorded everywhere I go, and there’s a weird awareness about it. If we know the cameras are on us, we do act a little differently, don’t we? Perhaps that ‘posing’ is becoming the new normal where I’m at. That heightened version of myself comes out knowing the cameras are on me. Maybe the only ‘natural’ I can find is within my own space, or the seclusion of a cabin up north. The rest of the world can do what it wants, I’m not going to stop them. It’s better to put the focus on my own life instead. I can work on widening the aperture for the rest of us another day.