I recently read a TED Book review on “Our Virtual Shadow” by Damon Brown. In this book Damon talks about how documenting our lives online can prevent us from actually living in the moment, i.e., we may update Facebook or tweet on Twitter about a special event that we are experiencing here and now, but by doing so we are significantly distracted from the moment and therefore we do not get the full experience that we otherwise would have done without social media providing a distraction. I think this is a very valid point, I have often said that very same thing! Sometimes after an event I look back and wish that I had not used social media to ‘document’ the occurrence because I feel like it made me miss out on some of the experience.
I sometimes find the same when it comes to taking photographs, as a keen amateur photographer, I often want to photograph everything that I deem to be special – however on several occasions this has made me feel like I was not present in the moment. Being on the other side of the lens is similar to updating social media, it creates a distance between us and the event. Take for example, firework displays. Although a great photo opportunity, I have came to the conclusion that I will no longer use my camera at these events as inevitably I reach the end of the display feeling like I missed out on the atmosphere.
You can imagine how devastating this would be for someone who has documented something really special on social media instead of staying present in the moment, for example, imagine your child is taking their first wobbly steps. Now imagine you try to video this and post it to Facebook to share your joy with your friends. Is it really worth it? Would it not be much better to stay ‘present’ and savour the moment without the distraction of technology?
Of course, as always there is a trade off involved. We all like to have photographs or other mementos that remind us of special occasions and events. I’m sure many parents would like a video of their child’s first steps. So it is up to us to decide where to draw the line. It is up to you to decide at what point you will use technology to complement your experiences and memories, and at what point you decide that it is stopping you from living in the moment.
Sometimes an occasion is to be lived and experienced with the people who are present and not everyone else on the other side of a computer screen.