Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight


We Are All Annoying Now

 

Last Wednesday was the first legitimately sunny, pleasant, vaguely warm day we’ve seen in the northeast since late October, so I couldn’t wait to get out of the office and into Astoria park, right along the water. I hadn’t been since at least November, and the first day doing anything after the winter thaw is a momentous occasion.

And it was glorious! Birds were chirping. Joggers were jogging. Dogs and babies got walked. Teenagers rolled weed. All was right in the world.

And everyone– I mean everyone– was taking pictures of everything on their phones.

And I was right there with ‘em. I tried at least six different angles to try to get the money shot- the one of the bridge, the park, the skyline and the water all in one frame. I spotted no fewer than five people trying for the same picture, using their hand as some type of visor. But it was six o’clock and the sun was so high and bright that it kept blowing out my shot. And so instead of soaking it up and letting it warm my face, I allowed the sun to annoy me for getting in the way of my documenting my lovely evening.

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And then I paused and asked myself why I was taking a picture in the first place.

I go walking in that park all the time. It’s not a unique experience for me. And I’ve taken that exact picture before. Skyline, water, bridge. Anyone who’s ever been to that park has taken that shot. I’ve taken it at least 10 times. There’s absolutely no reason for me to take that picture again. And there’s definitely no reason for me to spend five minutes trying to artfully arrange a photo so I can post it to Instagram.

And why is that exactly?

Because… NO ONE CARES!!!

Does anyone really care that I went to Astoria Park Wednesday? No.

Is anyone truly itching to see the sun set over someone else’s piece of sky? No.

Do I really need to humble-brag about choosing exercise over Netflix after work? No.

So why post it? Why do we post photos at all? Why do we take pictures of every damn thing we do and see these days? I’m not judging, because I participate.  I’m just starting to legitimately wonder why.

***

My 20-year high school reunion is this summer. (Please, I know what you’re all thinking…I don’t look a day over 19). As part of the preparations, the planning committee has requested alumni submit four pictures– two current shots, and two from 1995. As you can imagine, it’s pretty easy for me to scrounge up current day photos. I have about 12,000 on my desktop and I can simply aim my phone at my face and create one right now if I wanted to.

But I have been struggling to find two photos from my high school days. Back then, cameras were brought out for special occasions only. When you had your photograph taken, it was for a specific event or reason, not because Hey! I’m on my way to school and my hair looks good so click, click, click!. Pictures of shoes and outfits and coffees and flower arrangements were only taken for catalogs. Asparagus only crossed its legs and posed for photographs when it was about to be featured in a cookbook. It’s not like my mom pulled out pretty placemats and thoughtfully styled her meatloaf so she could snap a picture of it before calling us down to dinner. We would have thought she was nuts if she’d done that.

It’s a strange thing to have a small camera easily accessed at all times. I’ll be honest and say that’s the primary reason I ended up switching to a smartphone–the camera. I can live without texting (I hate it) and can always check email and social media on my laptop. But I loved the idea of joining Instagram, and having easy access to a camera, just in case something extraordinary caught my eye and I needed to get a photo of it.

That was my intention–to have a camera present so I could catch extraordinary  or compelling moments. But the truth of these tiny cameras (on my instagram feed, anyway) is that they capture more relatively trivial moments than anything else. A picture of our feet during yoga class, a pair of shoes on the floor, a lipstick-stained glass of Sauvignon Blanc, a piece of avocado toast. There are some people who appear to create moments out of nothing for the sake of having something pretty to put on their photo feed. There are people who curate little vignettes out of household items to post on their Instagram. I love the concept of finding beauty in everyday things, in taking time to appreciate and share gratitude for the simple joys in life, but sometimes I worry that by constantly documenting the minutia of daily life we are also interrupting the natural flow of it.

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It’s one thing to stop and smell the flowers, but no one does that. They stop and photograph the flowers. And then they tweak the photo for the perfect shade of pink. I know this is true, because I did it last week. I love the image of five champagne glasses clinking at the same time, but understand that creating this image requires one member of the party to cut themselves out of the celebration to jump behind the lens.

So what is it with all the photos? Is it narcissism? Is it “branding”? Is it bragging? Or is it just plain fun?

If these photos were postcards, “Wish You Were Here” wouldn’t be written across the top of them. It’d say something more like “Look Where I Am.”

When you live in a walking city, it’s easy to see these phone-and-photo offenders because they are absolutely everywhere. NYC is a very instagrammable city, and everywhere you go, there is bound to be a phone in the air pointing at something. If they’re not taking pictures, they’re looking at them. They’re in line at the grocery store, ignoring the clerk and obsessing over the phone. They’re colliding into us on the sidewalk, looking down when they should be looking forward. They’re at the gym, monopolizing machines for twice as long because they’re scrolling their feed between sets. Yesterday I spotted a girl in the locker room who stood there, topless, for at least ten minutes simply hypnotized by her phone. (Part of me thinks she was just an exhibitionist though; she had really good boobs).

I don’t blame the phones. I blame the people. Phones don’t annoy people. People annoy people.

Sometimes I picture a group of aliens coming down from another planet to check out our species and report back. I think they’d be pretty weirded out by our culture right now. I’m a little weirded out every time I ride the subway home and look to the bench of people in front of me. It’s so hard to find someone not looking at their phone. It is actually incredibly rare for me to see someone without their phone. They have become extensions of our bodies, as critical to walking out the door in the morning as house keys. Many of us are accomplishing tasks in little fits and bursts, interrupted by time-outs filled with glassy-eyed scrolling. I know it’s not just me.

***

As I read more and more articles about the rapid changes in technology, I can’t help but think that eventually there will be some kind of revolt or pushback about the way phones are to be used in public.

When we went to the Louvre two years ago, the Mona Lisa was impossible to admire because there were 75 iphones or Ipads covering her face. It was gross, and I can’t imagine the museum will let that shit go on forever (I hope not, anyway). And the other day, while walking by a shop selling macarons–the ultimate in photogenically girly baked goods– I spotted a small sign on the window urging passerby to not interrupt their bakers by taking photos. I feel like we’re on the precipice of a “Stop the Insanity” moment.

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I’m still not exactly sure the point I’m trying to make with this post. I’m certainly not about to make a pledge to stop taking pictures of things with my iphone. I’m not asking you to stop either–I enjoy looking at your pictures, I really do. Ultimately, I think most people share photos because we all have our own stories to tell, and photos are a way to offer others a sliver glimpse into our individual worlds. And that, I think, is pretty cool. And how could I judge that? I blog, for chrissakes!

So next week, when I’ve forgotten all about this little rant and post a photo of me sitting in a field of tulips, holding up my perfect hamburger while relaxing in the pinky-orange glow of the setting sun, I hope you will do me the favor of clicking like.

I can’t explain why, but I find it very validating.

 

 

 

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

  • http://writemeg.com/ Meg
    Definitely relate to this! I often have to force myself to “stay in a moment” and not obsess about documenting it — either with my phone or big girl camera — so I can simply remember having been in the middle of that experience, you know? I absolutely love Instagram and definitely snap ridiculous amounts of photos with the ol’ iPhone, but I try not to be “that person” out in public obliviously documenting something while ignoring everyone around her. It’s tough, though. As you mention, I think we’re going to see a turning point in society regarding how technology is used in public . . . I mean, everyone gathered around the Mona Lisa taking shots with iPads? Yuck. Talk about ruining an awesome moment. When I gave a speech at a fifth-grade commencement ceremony (about as crazy as it sounds, ha), the crowd was a sea of parents holding huge iPads out to document Little Timmy getting his certificate . . . and effectively blocking the view of everyone around them. But they all had iPads, too. Ugh.
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      I definitely feel weird taking pictures in public, especially in restaurants so I usually just don’t do it. This one restaurant we went to had an instagram contest, and whoever took the best photo of their dinner and posted it won a free dinner. I couldn’t pass that one up, but I still felt like a heel hovering my phone over my fish. I can understand taking pics of your kids and think that phones are actually great for that purpose. But yes, en masse and in public, it can definitely get out of control fast!
  • Alaine Mahoney
    Yes to all of this!! Scary, but I know the girl at the gym to whom you are referring and she was sans phone. Those twins were just made for showin’! Now excuse me while I go and take a no make-up, fluffy robe selfie…
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Bwah-haha! I knew it! She owns that place! Good for her. Hope to run into you at “the club” sometime.
  • http://www.cestlaxavie.com/ Xa
    Amen!
    You enjoy doing this so there is no harm in it. And we can inspire each other and learn from each other. It can give you insight in things and only enrich your own mind.
    So yep, some actually care. I know I am glad I found your blog, never been here before. And it is nice to find another inspiring person.
    Thanks for sharing! X
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Good point! If it’s fun, no harm and no foul! Thanks for the sweet comment, and for visiting here! Jenn
  • Mary Beth
    I went to the Justin Timberlake concert in December. I had purchased the tickets almost a year in advance. I am a huge fan and have never seen him in concert. I spent half of the evening on my phone and I felt ridiculous for it. I wanted to document the memory or show off on social media or a little of both. Either way I felt it ruined my experience. I could have still taken a pic or two and then put the phone away. How is he supposed to realize we should be best friends if he isn’t able to see me because my phone is blocking my face. Sigh. Oh Instagram / social media / smartphone society, I love / hate / love you. :) Mary Beth mairzeebp.wordpress.com
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Ah yes. Concerts are a totally different experience now. I do often wonder who goes back and actually watches the video of a concert taken on a phone. If Justin needs to find you, I’m sure he’ll find a way:).