This Tuesday was Fourth of July. Our group planned a trip to the Biltmore 2017 Fireworks Spectacular to be festive and celebrate our nation’s 241st birthday. I personally don’t really enjoy fireworks – I think they’re pretty for a minute, but the show gets quite repetitive and boring after a while. But I decided to go since the entire group was going. What was really eye-opening was when Bella pointed out right when the fireworks began, that the night was illuminated by everyone’s phones – taking pictures and recording the show. It reminded me of a stand-up comedy piece that I watched a long time ago, in which Louis CK mocked the fact that parents would watch their children perform onstage through the screen of a tiny phone or camera.
A few years ago, I made a mental pledge to myself to stop taking pictures. I didn’t mean to never take pictures of anything, but I stopped obsessing over taking pictures of food, taking selfies, taking pictures of beautiful scenery, and other things that we would be better off just organically enjoying. I might forget what something looked like – but that was natural and completely okay. What was really important was being present. I had noticed that our obsession with documenting everything nice and cool about our lives was unhealthy and actually really bizarre. I remember going on vacation on a tour bus to Inner Mongolia, a province with beautiful grasslands and richly verdant scenery, and instead of just peacefully admiring it, we took out our selfie sticks and took turns taking pictures. I also noticed how such obsession fed into our other obsession with social media – our pictures had to be idealistically picturesque, Instagram worthy, worthy of hundreds of likes. I stopped posting on social media, to get away from the chatter and the desire to look good in front of people who didn’t matter. And it honestly felt so liberating.
I didn’t write this post to ignorantly disregard the apparent benefits of social media. For some people, posting on social media allows them to update their loved ones and to reflect on the important moments of their lives. But when we become trapped in this intangible world, the line between expectation and reality is distorted, and we quickly become absent from many important memories and experiences, finding the need to later take time to re-experience with less authenticity what we took a picture of or what we took a video of. I just wanted to informally, via stream of consciousness, reflect on how excessive and distracting social media can become and the need for us to consume with a critical mind.