Snapshot Your Way Through Life

December 12, 2013 6:00 pm

As a disclaimer, this is not an article listing the reasons why taking a photo is bad. This is an article simply fascinated by the sheer amount that we take.

Even though I’m only 22, the world is a lot different since my early teenage years given the massive progress in technology. This article also won’t be a lengthy exposition into the pros and cons of this you might be glad to hear: some of it is good and some of it is bad, in my trite opinion.  But, really, I do want to comment on the culture of the selfies, the culture of photos more generally, and how this potentially scratches at something larger at play. Mortality. Bet you’re glad you kept on reading.

The Snapshot Era. Even if we do not manage to actually do an awful lot over the next few years, we’ll sure have enough pictures to show for it. It is almost as if, with gritted teeth and bouts of tenacity, we claw mark our way through the days proving that we were here goddammit. Yes, we certainly were.   “Yeah, look, me too! And me! Yay. Lets’ celebrate with a picture”.

Some of us may not be doing it for this reason, some of us may be doing it out of habit, out of the need to keep up with others. Some may be doing it just because they enjoy taking photos and, no, there is no larger, existential motive at play here, thank you very much. In which case, my apologies. But the thought has been prevalent enough now for me to write it down, to try to unpack it I guess.

Because on the one hand, isn’t it beautiful to preserve something? Surely to take a moment, or five, to capture it means that you’regirl with a camera appreciating it? So I still don’t know then why am I left feeling that there is a darker undercurrent at play here, at least sometimes. Around me, I have never witnessed such a huge preoccupation with taking a photo. The one or two would be fine, heck, I didn’t wear a gorgeous dress for others to just forget about it. But it is almost as if now the photo-taking sessions become a separate more important part of the event itself, and some of us are more concerned with the snapshot that they will show we were somewhere, with interesting looking people, than we are with actually engaging with wherever we are. We’ve all seen that dude at that gig who watches the entire thing through his iPhone, or fancy camera or whatever. Don’t get me started. He should’ve just watched the show on YouTube the next day; much cheaper.

The notorious snapshot also got my thinking about time, and how it does indeed go by. I for one am a bit tired of mourning this. For one, I can imagine looking back at myself at 50 thinking, ‘Really??!?! That’s what you were concerned about?!’ Apologies also to my future self.

Some of us, I’d say a large majority quite frankly, have wrapped ourselves up into a tricky relationship with time. Yesterday was once our today, just like our today is the yesterday of  tomorrow that we once looked forward to because it contained within it the prospect of a future that never comes. Because it is our today, we are more likely to find it boring because it is not yet our yesterday, it has not yet been tainted with the glitter that contains within it heavy doses of nostalgia. Our todays are hampered by the prospect of the tomorrow that will soon lose its glamour come the prospect of another day. Our today will be the yesterday we hankered after so desperately, when the today we once yearned did not live up to what we thought. So it goes on, forever more.

Here comes the bleak part guys. I cannot shrug off the idea that what we, (please do not make the mistake of thinking I’m exempt from all of this) are doing in fact, is rushing towards Mr Reaper-Man himself. We forgot to stop. Simply stop, and live, and instead went on and on.

What a lot of us are doing is hoarding, hoarding to the point of gluttony, where, quite frankly, I’m left feeling sick. While we love these moments, we hate them at the same time, hateful that they will leave us. But rather than subconsciously feeling resentment, we could always just note and appreciate. By nodding and smiling at beautiful yet passing moments, we retain a small amount of control and hopefully remain a little independent: independent enough to know that while it may not last forever, it happened to us, and good things will happen again. This idea reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from the poet Sarah Kay where she says, “When I meet you, in that moment, I’m no longer a part of your future. I start quickly becoming part of your past. But in that instant, I get to share your present. And you, you get to share mine. And that is the greatest present of all.” Indeed.

TimeWe short change ourselves of many moments, and I think that if we could, at the end of our lives we would march back into the shop of life, demanding a refund of time, wailing about how we have been taking for a fool. But there will be no one behind the desk to even apologise.

To appreciate  a feeling that is bigger than you, and to truly respect and love it, I think you should, at least sometimes, (come on, let’s try weaning ourselves just a little from this habit) allow it to have free reign, even if it leaves you feeling a little sad once it’s passed.

If we are always so keenly, so perseveringly aware of moments, does it enhance, or actually take something away from it? That question is not rhetorical. But sometimes, is it not the case that we are trying to beat time to it due to the fact that we are already trying to see it in hindsight? We miss it while we are experiencing it, so guaranteed are we that life has some vendetta to rob us of something precious. We need to scarper for the relics of living and hold them up in triumph, to show others that we too are currently living out a purpose. To know is not enough anymore; to show is everything.

Here’s an idea. Live the thing. Live life. Time passes, but once we stop feeling victimized by a fact that has been around and remains just as indifferent since dinosaurs roamed, once we know that it can actually act in our favour, (all of our best experiences were given to us by it after all) and that we have an awful lot more of it than others purely by accident of birth, maybe we can start living not a semblance of a life, but something more authentic that exists beyond the flash.

So if I ask for you, for me, for all of us, to gently pry our fingers from our devices, and I do promise one thing. Those moments that we are forever in a rush to capture will not fall through our fingers like sand: they will still get to be all ours at the end of a very long day.

Then again, maybe I’m just reading too much into it and need to calm down. Not forgetting to take a picture of myself in a Zen-like pose with a glass of bubbly at the side of me. Bliss.

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