The other evening, I ran into an acquaintance at a nightspot. We were with our respective groups of friends. As the evening progressed, the bunch pretty much spent its time taking photos of each other in different poses. With drinks, without drinks, ‘modelling’ angles, group shots, while dancing, next to the bar, outside the venue… followed by cloying instant reviews and feverish updates.
How much time and energy did they spend on this? (Never mind that I spent most of mine observing them.) Did they actually end up partying with each other at all, I wondered? The next morning, the photos were duly uploaded on my friend’s social networking page. I yawned, I had seen all the action the night before.
Similarly with vacation photos. There's no doubt that it's always fun and sometimes helpful to scroll through distant landscapes friends have trekked through, places they’ve visited, people they’ve met, food they’ve tried…
It’s not about bombarding the viewers’ senses — ‘ignore’ is a choice most people have. But I want to ask if it is so necessary to record every single moment or update every single incident that you end up spending most of your time doing just that? When do you ‘end up’ living the moment that you’re updating everyone else about?
Malls, nightspots and restaurants are great spaces to observe how the social media plays itself out. If anything, they’ve come to become the backdrops where we live out our larger than life personas. Every member of Consumption Society is now a celebrity whose life must be recorded and played back in minute detail to the audience called family/friends/friends of friends. We want everyone to know where we are, who we’re with, what we’re eating, wearing or drinking that we do end up not paying any attention to the person we are with. Do we take in the details of our surroundings instead of glazing over, thinking of our next display photo? Do we really savour what we are eating or drinking while we’re busy telling the world how good it tastes?
A lot has been said about fragmented attention in today’s digital age. With this restless need to tell all, it seems we are fragmenting our notion of time and space too — living future perceptions through present projections.
Memories and nostalgia are not what they used to be. The means to record the times have multiplied. In fact, there are more means to capture history than history itself. The idea we need to reflect on is, how much and what kind of memories are we creating and leaving for future generations?
A yoga teacher once told me, “I choose to have a bad memory. It helps me live in the present.” Really, isn't this moment all that we have? This has nothing to do with instant gratification, but about living in The Now with meditative attention and abandon.
We’re so busy chronicling our lives that we’re forgetting to live them.
Next time, do yourself a favour, leave the camera at home (or in the bag if you can't help it), pause before keying in that status update... Breathe, and just enjoy the moment.