I was wandering through this farm outside of Barranquilla Colombia the other day and I started to think about how beautiful everything was, and then there was this strong desire for me to take out my phone and start snapping pictures to share with all of my friends online. Instead of soaking in all the beauty that surrounded me I thought it was better to capture it, and share it on my social media in a somewhat of a humble expression. Just to let my friends back home living ‘normal’ lives that I was somehow more blessed and better than them because I was in another country experiencing something magical.
I started to think about how many other important things I had experienced only partially because I had that need to record the event with the intention of sharing it with a crowd. I unplug some of my own presence from the moment to place my attention on my cellphone and begin to cue up the shot. I felt a sense of embarrassment and disgust that I too have fallen into this accepted new approach to life that involves experiencing life through cellphone videos. The degree of detail that I forego experiencing just because my mind is focusing on capturing the best shot was be immense.
I came to this beautiful country hoping that I wouldn’t be subjected to the self-capture lifestyle that has become the norm in North America. I was unconsciously longing to partially escape this self-centeredness that we encourage each other with to see people fully engaged in their surroundings, conversating with family and loved ones being totally present without the pressure of the lens always following you around.
Disappointment wouldn’t fully capture the feeling I felt when it became very apparent that Colombians too had succumbed to the same pressures we face back home. One of the first things I see when I arrive at the first beach I was brought to was no lovely rolling waves, but rather a few teenagers holding cell phones up attempting to get that perfect angle that makes them look like supermodels at the beach.
When things slowly make they way into mainstream affairs and then become adopted as completely acceptable behaviours you feel like an outcast when you too aren’t participating in the same rituals. I remember the days when people wouldn’t be caught dead taking a picture of themselves because they would be publicly shamed for their ridiculous decision, and I think that mindset is still hardwired in my mind. It’s not that we all didn’t do it from time to time, we just did it from behind closed doors from the comfort of our own homes. By no means is self-obsession a new trend when it comes to human evolution, but it has never been so hyper-inflated and almost encouraged today.
To blame people for their behaviour might be a bit shortsighted. If I was ever to get scripture tattooed on me it would be “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Most people aren’t aware of the neuroscience of the reward system we have been trapped in the loop of. This dopamine feedback mechanism, our cellphones, directs our behaviour far more than we’d probably be willing to acknowledge. Addiction? Maybe not, but we certainly have unhealthy relationships with our phones in 2017. Don’t believe me? Try and leave home tomorrow without your phone and see how long you last before doing an about-face turn and beelining it back to your house.
Do you remember the last time you went out for a meal with your friends and everyone put their phone away for the entirety of the the meal? Call me old fashioned, but I chose to fight those nasty urges to grab my phone mid-meal. I’ve learned over the years, just how powerful and cherished my complete presence is when I’m communicating with people. Additionally, I’ve learned how much more detail I am able to recall from special events and travels when I don’t give in to the all-consuming void of social media.
After all, pictures fade, hard drives crash, and cellphones get stollen. If I want to remember that special event from my trip, I can now simply close my eyes and tap into all the fantastic details my mind captured. These detailed sensory explorations I may have missed out on if I was busy attempting to showcase the experience to the world through my phone.