Get Off My Lawn, and Take Your Selfies With You

But first… lemme take a Selphie
a crotchety old rant from a twenty-five year old

I really hate cell phones. Put them down, people.

I don’t actually care about people having electronic devices. But there’s a difference between being uninterested in what’s happening around you and looking down at a Kindle to read or a video game to play, and holding a phone in front of your face AT ALL TIMES. People go to concerts and spend the entire time RECORDING the concert that they’re MISSING. They go to amusement parks and plays and movies and spend the whole time taking pictures of themselves there instead of experiencing it. No one poses for a picture while a nice stranger or the uncle holds the camera and says “Say cheese everyone!” Now it’s possible to document your every moment, to such a degree that you no longer need to EXPERIENCE those moments.

I never thought I’d be the one to say this, having been raised by television, Gameboy, and computer screens, but people need to look up at the world around them. These devices need to be used to ENHANCE the experience of life, not replace it.

A lot of bands forbid recording or taking pictures at their concerts, and I totally respect them for making that decision. I know of at least one band who said they refused to continue their show until everyone put their fucking phones down and engaged with them. Performers don’t spend all of their life and energy pouring their heart out on stage just so they can look out at a sea of people staring at them through the lenses of their phone cameras. That’s no way to connect or experience art.

It’s funny that I’m saying all of this, because I love electronic devices. As a kid I took my Gameboy with me into every restaurant, and I still don’t go out to eat alone without a book or my Kindle. I have my iPod playing music in the car when I drive. I’m not averse to having these devices. But I also think people are wasting their time documenting experiences they AREN’T having.

When I was a kid (good lord I can’t believe I’m starting a sentence that way), you would go and do something, and then after it was over, or during it, you’d hand the disposable camera to a stranger or to one of your relatives who didn’t want to be in a picture, everyone huddled together, smiled, and you took the damn photo and then continued with your day. There was even the excitement of waiting until you filled up the whole camera roll to get the pictures developed, and everyone gathered around to look at THIRTY treasured memories.

Now not only do you have an unlimited numbers of available photos, but the majority of those photos are of YOURSELF, taking from arms length (and there’s some symbolism in there, I suppose), usually making a ridiculous face, and you aren’t even paying ATTENTION to whatever you’re doing. People’s whole lives consist of taking selfies in new and exciting locations, rather than using photographs to document those experiences that they aren’t really having.

Maybe the urban legend about Native Americans is right: maybe photographs DO steal your soul. It just took us a while to perfect the KIND of camera that could do it.

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