Has Instagram Stopped Us from Living in The Moment?….. NO!

I’ve been taking photographs regularly since I discovered Flickr in 2007. Unfortunately by then it was too late for me to have gleaned enough knowledge from it to pick a decent wedding photographer (I was married in 2006 and the professional photos were not very good. Thankfully my Brother-in-Law had his camera and took a bunch of great album worthy photos, phew!)

My love affair with phone photography started with the app Hipstamatic (which I really need to start using again) and then when instagram appeared, I was all about “the ‘gram”.

In my time taking photos I have completed 3 separate 365 projects (2 documented on my Flickr and 1 solely on instagram) For those who don’t know what this is, it’s simply taking one photo a day for a whole year. It’s kind of hard, and sometimes you don’t know what to take a picture of or just forget. But it’s taught me to really consider what makes a photo ‘interesting’ and whether a picture really is interesting before I load it to the internet. It really helped me to look at things in a different way to enable me to take a decent photo 365 times over a year.

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But after the first 2 (I did those back to back, since the first one was rather boring) I decided to put my camera away for the most part. I didn’t keep it in my bag (mobile phones didn’t have decent – or sometimes any – camera back then) I felt like I was too swept up with taking a photo at every good opportunity that I was missing out on the actual experience.

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Since then, and with vast technological advances, we all have awesome cameras in our pockets. My iPhone camera has a higher pixel quality than my Canon dSLR. But there’s always the chance to get swept up in a photo moment rather than fully living the experience. I remember going to an exclusive Hosier gig. The tickets were REALLY hard to get and he was just about topping his game. Everyone was talking about him. Two women in front of me took a few photos at the start of the gig, and then about an hour later I saw one of them uploading them to her instagram (whilst the gig was happening) and then within 15 minutes she was back on instagram, not only checking her likes, but sharing the photos with her friend sitting next to her – of the gig she was at that was STILL HAPPENING. She was busy reminiscing about something that was still happening in front of her and that she was missing….. FACE PALM

It’s certainly a fine line between sharing an experience and completely missing it. Years back, just after Michael Jackson had died, I went to a local town to see a Thriller Flashmob (remember when flashmobs were a thing?) The actual flashmob might have been good, I don’t know because this is what happened:

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You can play ‘spot the MJ impersonator’ with this one. I was totally struck by the amount of hands, phones and cameras there were in my way (this was 2009 so it wasn’t hugely the norm). But then, remember mine was in the crowd too!

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My first fulltime job was in retail back in 2001 and me and the girls used to find it odd seeing holiday makers with their cameras in a shopping centre taking photos of themselves in front of stores….. little did we know it would be the norm just a few year later.

Anyway, this is all bringing me to why I’m here talking about this today. A few days back Sara Tasker shared a link on Twitter (which you can find here) This article is about a Vimeo video (that you can watch in the article) created by a fella named Oliver, showing how ‘everyone takes the same pictures on instagram’. In itself it’s a really enjoyable video to watch, and well put together, so I’d encourage you to see it. But this site decided to interview the creator and here’s what he said:

“During my trip, I felt that many people didn’t really enjoy the moment and were hooked to their smartphones,” he says. “As if the ultimate goal of travel was to brag about it online and run after the likes and followers.”

I was with him up until then. I feel like this guy has really missed the point of instagram. He’s actively searched on instagram for places, tags and similarities and then put them together in a video. You could make a video of old paintings of fruit and tell people about how everyone back then was so obsessed with sharing their fruit bowls that their apples went bad before they could eat them…..

What he saw when he watched the video (he’d carefully curated) “Everyone spends the whole time behind their screen, everyone spends their whole holiday trying to get the perfect shot, that shot has been done already, this is all for likes, oh look at you bragging about your pretty beach holiday”

What I saw when I watched his video: “These people are living their best lives, look how happy they are, what an awesome view, what a crazy experience, these people belong in this world, I wish I could visit this place one day”

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What Oliver has failed to remember is

  • instagram promotes creativity, and it’s awesome to be creative and share that with like-minded people
  • taking photos is FUN
  • Not everyone is sharing everything from their holidays. That shot you’re seeing is the work of potentially 1 minute of their life
  • So what if they do spend their whole holiday with their face in their phone – it’s THEIR holiday and THEIR face!
  • Everyone is chasing experience to fill their one chance at life – so what if they’re having and then sharing the same experience as someone else has. It’s their experience – there are A LOT of them to have.
  • Sharing on instagram provides a little ‘experience’ to everyone who sees that picture. And it’s amazing for those who can’t (or haven’t yet) visit these places. Isn’t that the point, really?
  • If you feel it’s a ‘brag’ or you don’t like it – don’t look at it. Instagram isn’t mandatory. And if you can’t come off it, because you’re enjoying sharing your own pictures, remember why you’re using it. Your feed is there for you; curate it. Someone might just be sitting there looking at your photos thinking ‘what a bloody bragger’. They’re not for you, just like you, Oliver, are not for them.

I’m definitely an advocate of not missing an experience. But I’m also very concerned about forgetting experiences I’ve had. I have a huge fear that my memory will go and it’s a very lonely feeling. I want to be able to relive past experiences, and reminisce. The world of online albums and having a camera ‘right there’ when I need it is wonderful to me. I understand you shouldn’t have your face in your screen all the way throughout your life. If I’m filming or photographing something, I’m very careful to not view it through a viewfinder. But so what if people do – it’s their life, and if it makes them happy then ‘whatever’. And who knows, they might have experienced that thing a hundred times before, so filming whilst you’re there shouldn’t anger you – you concentrate on you. They might just be taking pictures or filming something on behalf of someone who just couldn’t get there. Their sharing this experience could bring enormous joy to someone across the globe, or even just to them in years to come.

It boils down to – why do you care so much? Concentrate on yourself, Oliver, and don’t spend so much time on Vimeo making videos about other people’s life experiences….. say what? It’s what you enjoy…..? oh! well…. my point has been made.

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All images are my own, are copyrighted to me and cannot be used under any circumstance.

Don’t forget to look up

As an amateur photographer I understand the want to get ‘the photo’ – the best photo and share it with everyone, and say ‘I was there’. But increasingly I’m noticing that when I’m at an event, there are so many photos being taken by people, that I worry they aren’t actually enjoying the experience of being there.

so many cameras, can you spot Michael?
So many cameras, but can you spot the Michael lookalike?

The surge in popularity of Instagram and the ease of having a decent camera in your phone has turned everyone into buddy photographers. I found it very strange at a wedding recently when I went to my hotel room for a little break between the ceremony and wedding breakfast, to find a photo of myself already up and tagged on Facebook. I was looking at a picture of myself in the clothes I was still wearing, taken 20 minutes before hand. It was very odd! But this access to tech and cameras has created a world of little snappers, so eager to show “I was here” rather than totally enjoying where they are.

An example of this was when I went to see Bon Iver last October at the Hammersmith Apollo. I was sat three rows from the front of a balcony and in front was a girl who spent the first 20 minutes taking photos on her phone of the gig and uploading them to instagram. By the last 20 minutes of the show she was reviewing the photos she’d taken before and showing them to her friend. I almost screamed at her “you’re missing what’s in front of you!” She seemed so bothered about sharing her experience with people who weren’t there rather than actually experiencing it herself.

I noticed this again only two weeks ago when I visited La Compagnie Carabosse in Campbell Park. It was part of the IF festival which pops up every year in Milton Keynes. Staged in the evening just as the sun went down, the park was transformed into a maze of fire sculptures and music. The whole thing was immense and unusual but spoiled for me at first by the fact that everyone was taking photos and no one was looking up. I’m sure when they got home they were surprised by how boring their picture of a log on fire was (x20 because for some reason people just stood and kept taking loads of pictures of the same really mundane aspects).  It made me feel sad that everyone was seeing the experience through their view finders.

On Gary and my recent trip to Paris and also to a family wedding, he told me not to take my SLR camera. Ever the photographer I wanted to get the best and most interesting photos of everywhere I went. But I’m glad he persuaded me to leave it behind. Yes it’s great to get The Photo, but I was able to relax and enjoy my surroundings without the baggage and there were plenty of great photos I got with my compact. (I’m starting to realise that it doesn’t really matter the size of the camera if you’re going to get a great shot.) You don’t have to get a shot of EVERYTHING in order to prove you’ve been somewhere and experienced something. Our obsession with sharing everything is a strange and new behaviour and I’m starting to find it a little tiring.

I’m off to the Olympic park on Tuesday and people keep telling me to take loads of photos. I will take my camera and I’ll take pictures of the park and the cauldron (hopefully), but I very much doubt I will shoot the events. (These runners are so fast that I’ll miss whole races!) I want to take in every single second, and even though no one else will see exactly what I see, at least I’ll have the experience and the memory – after all, it’s me who will be there and these are my memories.