A friend once told me a story. She told me about a time when her and her husband went to visit one of those famous temples in Kyoto. There’s a perfect spot to take pictures from and there is a perfect time to go, which means the temple will be packed with tourists from all over. But this spot, this perfect spot, frames the photo that everybody wants. Proof that you were there. The greatest thing about the spot is the camaraderie invoked in fellow observers. Each group takes pictures of the group in front of them, sharing the burden of snapping the perfect “wish you were here” moment. A great opportunity to meet new people from all over the world, maybe a chance to practice that new language you’re dabbling in.
It’s very Japan.
My wife recently had the great fortune to spend time with her best friend in the gorgeous land of New Zealand. I admit, I was a bit jealous because I was trapped at home with a tight schedule and deficient funds. But she had a tremendous time full of laughs, exploration, and the pictures to prove it.
It’s very social.
As I took time to organize my thousands of photographs the other day, I realized that less than one percent of them had people in them. Even less had people I actually know posing in them. I began to wonder what this said about me.
Does this make me anti-social?
Does this make me rude?
Does this make me forgettable?
Social media exacts tremendous pressure. Over its short lifespan it has developed a distinct culture of thoughts and ideas that go unspoken, creating clear in-groups and out-groups. There is a special way to use social networks to market the cultivated, or uncultivated, image you desire. Some people are better versed than others.
Professionals and amateurs are beginning to study the impacts social media is having on us. Reports say it makes us sad while another says happy. I guess it depends who you ask. Look at here, here, and here for a primer of interesting articles.
Countless facts and opinions battered my skull as I tried to make sense of it all.
I thought about the person forcing me to pose with the invisible dog.
I thought about skipping picture day at school.
I thought about cultures with aversion to photography.
I thought about others.
Many laps later I determined nothing.
Perhaps thinking isn’t the solution. But I do know I am not anti-social. I am not rude. I might be forgettable.
I enjoy socializing. I like to be there in the moment with people. We are together to create new experiences, not relive past ones. Nothing makes an experience more awkward than talking about someone who isn’t there and won’t be there; it only succeeds in alienating new people. Living vicariously serves no purpose towards cultivating new and meaningful relationships.
I love photography. I will continue snapping pictures of things I think are interesting and I will share them as I see fit. But experiences with people are important to me and I want to keep those memories the same way a Tibetan Mandala is meant to be viewed.
It’s very beautiful.