“The Broken Record (Button)”

Once while I was watching the evening news, they ran an entertainment story on Adele. At one of her concerts in Italy, she addressed her audience who had their smartphones recording her performance. As the light rain fell that overcast night she proclaimed, “Can you stop filming me with a video camera? I’m really here in real life, you can enjoy it in real life rather than through your camera. This isn’t a DVD”. The words really resonated with me, since collectively as a society I felt it categorized the recent trend of all-consuming social media.

When I was a child, I remember attending Disney World with my family. Although my father took photographs, the chronicling of the experience was in the right balance. The vast majority of the time I have fond memories of riding amusement park rides and collecting autographs off Disney characters. A generation ago, I feel a heavier weight was given to enjoying life rather than documenting it.

Companies have noticed this, and created features on their platforms to exacerbate this trend. As people provide status updates on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat, it creates a force to constantly chronicle life’s excursions. It also causes the user to be more mindful of a bigger audience. In the past, while people would send personal hand-written cards it felt heartfelt since it was a connection between solely those two people. There is something lost in the translation when everyone has the ability to watch the interactions like the audience studio of a talk show.

Napoleon once famously proclaimed, “What is history but a fable agreed upon?”. Social media has created a “keeping up with Joneses” mentality of trying to make lives seem more ideal than they are. Groups huddled for their fourth selfie at a crowded nighclub, using esoteric tint shades on hiking scenery, or sharing photos of food with people who are not at the restaurant shows how intrusive the trends have become.

Social media is a paradox of sorts. The benefits of connectivity and rapidness can also be its shortcomings. As technology gets even more intrusive with livestreaming, how do we keep social media in its proper limits? Are we living our lives for ourselves or for others? Collectively, are we are too busy acting like historians chronicling each moment without enjoying each moment for what it is? There is a Modest Mouse lyric that laments, “we get one chance to get things right”. When it comes to social media, it is hard to get to get the recipe just right.

As a society, we are at an interesting crossroad. While technology is increasingly more encompassing and distracting, the health benefits of focusing on the present moment are more evident than ever. From pop-psychology books like Eckert Tolle to affirmed research studies on mindfulness meditation at universities, there has been a huge chorus encouraging us to embrace the present moment amongst the cacophony of media. We are constantly reminded of this like an overused vinyl, but it can be tempting to ignore.

Social media has great advantages, but it is important for us to keep it in its right place. We can’t allow it to be like the undercurrent of a wave, it needs to be treated more like a book on a shelf that we can pick up when we want. It is time for us to enjoy the fireworks in the way they were meant to be experienced (with our cameras off).

6 comments

  1. Nice writing, Kevin! This had a really nice length and focus. Definitely use some pictures in your text and next to your title for your upcoming blogs. Have fun with the formats available to you in this kind of media! (links, embedded videos, fonts, etc.)

  2. talkingtroy · ·

    Your mention of being present (like at the Adele concert) caught my attention. I often see people taking pictures and video at shows which I think it’s fine with rain. Some people seem to spend half the show looking at a screen though and I feel like they are really missing out. Like do they even go back and look at all the low quality video they took?

  3. jordanpanza29 · ·

    I also like your example of the Adele concert. It reminds me of two photos side by side that I have seen. Both photos are of the Pope in Rome. One is everyone just watching him and then the next photo is everyone just taking photos of him. It can be hard to remember to be in the moment but is important to do so, so that we don’t miss out on life.

  4. I confess that I find myself pausing the same way sometimes, making sure I enjoy the real world rather than observing it through a smartphone screen. Of course, I used that philosophy at my daughter’s play last week, and really regret not having a video now. So the key is learning which parts of life to engage in which way. I agree with Rose that it would have been spiced up with some images, etc.

  5. lesleyzhou · ·

    Great example of not “living in the moment” with the Adele story. I admit that I tend to document things more than I should, especially at big events like concerts, games, get togethers and even during dinners. But then, when I flip back to these old images a year later, I feel pretty grateful that I spent the effort capturing those moments because it reminds me the good times. So while documentation can be a distracting (and sometimes even frivolous activity), I think it’s still worth doing for the sake of memories…what do you think?

  6. I really enjoyed your blog! I admit that I always feel a need to document something which I deem worth while, even if I will only go back to it like once or twice. I rather document something then have the fear of regret. And although ancient, I still look at some photo albums (pretty rarely though) that my parents put together years ago from the trips we took together, and think to myself how we have progressed so much, and how developing pictures once used to be really fun in determining which photo album to purchase, what pictures to develop, and which picture should go on what page. Yet, we were still able to enjoy so much because we used to take more of those instant pictures on our cameras, and not waste all that time on videos and documenting. I do agree that it’s important to keep social media in it’s right place, as you mentioned, so that we do not miss out too much.

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