I recently read an article about a couple whose gender reveal party didn’t go as planned. The balloon store made an error. They used bright, mixed balloons instead of pink or blue. The mother-to-be ends up in tears and the father-to-be begins cursing. They rectify the situation, and re-enact the scene with the correct color of party supplies for the camera.
When the experience of recording an event becomes more essential than experiencing the event, we have risen to the level of PhD in Missing the Point. There has been much written on this phenomenon: Faces in phones. Too much screen time. Not connecting with real live humans. Selfie pics. And the list goes on.
But, an even bigger point gets missed.
One of my favorite pictures is of my four nephews and I at the St. Louis zoo. They were just little farts at the time. The picture isn’t great. In fact, one of the boys is licking something unidentifiable. Another, only the side of his head is seen because he couldn’t stop looking at the train, and the oldest has the top five inches of his head cut off at the edge of the photo.
But, oh how I remember that moment. That exact moment. The exact day. It was the last time my beautiful sister-in-law and I went to the zoo with the boys before she was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently passed away.
What she’s wearing that sunny day is imprinted on my memory. The picnic lunch we had just eaten, and the stale Lay’s potato chips we fed to the birds. The blister I had on my heel from a new pair of sandals, and the Kamchatka bear we spent an hour watching and giggle about. The second pair of sunglasses she lost, and the smell of the warm lilacs in the hot Missouri sun.
The photo isn’t THE THING. The sweet and irreplaceable memory is the thing.
Photos and videos used to be for capturing an experience. Capturing a memory. Now the act of capturing is the memory itself; the act of making the recording is the event. It’s cheap, empty, and inconsequential. All the while wanting to feel important or alive, or at least have others think we are.
If we don’t allow ourselves an experience in the moment with our heads and hearts fully engaged, we have no need for the memory. There is nothing worth remembering or reminiscing later. The event is a non-event from the start.
When we manufacture photo ops premeditating high likability numbers, we move beyond narcissistic. We become our own paparazzi. Which is tragic, and…. more than a little sad.
I understand wanting to be seen and enjoyed. Spending time with people we appreciate and who appreciate us is a gift. The difficulty is, if we are creating a life of engineered moments, others may fall in love with the façade. Being loved for our Photoshopped façade is the epitome of being alone.
Spending that memorable day staging perfect photos for approval from others could never have replaced the one ridiculous, off center, PB&J covered, squinty-eyed photo and the bitter sweet memories that go with it.
Next time we grab the phone to take a quick snap, let’s put the camera back down and let ourselves have a mindful memory full of feeling, sight, and sound. The photo on my dresser of the day at the zoo is just a moment in time. With or without the photo, the essence of that day will live with me forever.