Get Off Your Phone!

It’s a common sight at events, concerts, or attractions to see someone (or many someones) with their camera or phone firmly planted in front of their face, recording or snapping pictures for the entire experience. It is also a common sight to find blog posts, rants, and other forms of judgment telling everyone that this is the wrong way to enjoy your life. “Get off your phone! No one wants to see those pictures! You’re not experiencing the event, you’re just taking pictures!” There is a common sentiment that an unmediated version of reality is the best version of reality, and that if you’re taking pictures or video your mind is on how to capture the experience rather than on the experience itself. If you’re not 100% mentally and emotionally present, then you’re ruining your own experience!

The odd thing about this is that more often than not, those taking these pictures aren’t distracting anyone else. Their behavior is entirely irrelevant to the people who are upset with it. It simply has to do with how that individual is experiencing someone, a personal choice that is entirely their own. This need to police other people’s happiness is an impulse which is both incredibly self centered (other people need to do things the same way I do or they won’t be happy) and incredibly unhelpful.

Here’s the thing: everyone has different ways of experiencing the world, and everyone appreciates different things. We get happy in different ways. We engage with things in different ways. We are present in different ways. These individualities are why not all of us like to go to bars and not all of us like to play Dungeons and Dragons, but for some reason when technology is involved it’s no longer ok to have preferences but instead there must be a Right and a Wrong way to exist because otherwise technology will infiltrate our lives and destroy our human connections (or something).

For some people, taking pictures allows them to experience things in a more active way. They prefer not to simply be passive recipients of their experience, but want to think about how best to capture it, about the angles of light and the image of what’s going on. For some people, thinking about how they will capture the experience makes them think about what they want to remember in the future, and helps them focus on the things they like most about their experience. Some people just like taking pictures or videos and that is an additional enjoyable experience beyond whatever primary experience they may be happening.

And guess what? Even if you personally don’t want technology to be a part of your day to day experience because you find it makes you less present, that doesn’t mean that technology inherently pulls people out of their lives and pushes them into the “unreality” of the internet. Some people find that having their phone on and around is a distraction from the people they want to be with, where others (especially the introverted and socially anxious among us) find it a useful way to take a quick break from socializing when they need a mini recharge. The point is that people experience technology (as well as social situations) differently. In the past, if someone had a hard time being fully present in a situation with lots of people for a long time, all they could do was leave or just try to stick it out or maybe dissociate. Now there are more strategies they can employ through technology. They may be more visible, since someone taking out their phone is more obvious than someone simply zoning out and ignoring what’s happening around them, but people have always had ways to take a break from a current experience. All of us do it, and that is 100% ok. We don’t owe any place or person or experience all of ourself for the entire time we are there.

So please friends, take out your phones if you want, take those pictures, hide behind your camera or take that video because you want to watch it tomorrow. Let yourself disappear for a bit into technology or find new ways to love the concert you’re at by finding the perfect image to capture it. I want you to know what makes you smile, and that’s no one’s business but your own.

 

I Love Selfies

One of my most favorite people in the world, Elyse MoFo Anders, recently started a project called Operation Flawless. Go check it out and participate if you feel the urge. I’m having tons of fun with it already. The basic gist of the project is to intentionally post selfies of yourself looking less than flawless to highlight the impossibility of beauty standards and to recognize how important and powerful self-portraits (selfies) can be. As I’ve participated in this project, I’ve come to a realization: I love selfies.

Photo on 2014-02-04 at 07.50

This might come as a surprise to many of you. I’ve spoken many times before about my insecurities and my unhappiness with my looks. But no matter how much I dislike looking at myself in the mirror, I love seeing pictures of myself. I feel so much more comfortable when there’s a distance between myself and the image of myself, so that I can be somewhat more objective when assessing myself. I would rather look at a picture of myself than see myself in the mirror any day. I can manipulate my pictures, delete my pictures, only keep the pictures I like, only look at the pictures from when I looked happier…I can control pictures.

But more than just the medium, I absolutely adore being able to take pictures of myself. Selfies are sort of like the ultimate form of power over how others see you and over how you see yourself. It’s kind of lovely. When I take selfies I get to decide how I’m lit, what I’m wearing, whether I wear makeup, how my hair is, the background, and pretty much everything else. And on top of that I get to continue taking pictures until I find the one that I think is exactly perfect and how I want to look. I can play model, try to smize, find the exact quirk of my mouth that makes me look snarky/sexy/happy.

Photo on 2013-10-28 at 18.09

Perhaps my favorite part of selfies is that I get to pick what’s important in my life and capture that moment for y’all to see. When someone else is taking the pictures, they’re in the driver’s seat. You’re doing something you think is embarrassing or boring? Oh look there’s a picture! You’re drifting somewhere else and not really present? Yup, picture of that too! You’re stuck somewhere you don’t want to be? Mmhmm, everyone knows. When you’re taking the pictures, you get to pick. Not all of you will understand. Sometimes I take pictures of myself sitting at Caribou, sometimes hanging out at home doing nothing. More often than I should admit there are cats in my pictures. I take selfies when something I want to share is happening. It’s my visual diary. It reveals the things I do often, or the things that are exciting and important.

Photo on 2013-09-13 at 14.22

Unfortunately I often find (especially lately) that I’ve stopped posting selfies unless there’s a “reason”. I’ve internalized well enough the messaging that just posting pictures of yourself is trite, self-absorbed, juvenile, or wrong in some way. On some level it seems to say “I don’t have anything better to post”. Well bullshit on that. Me, myself, and I are worth posting. The times that I care about are worth posting. I don’t need to live up to anyone’s standards of worthiness on my own Facebook page or Twitter. It’s not narcissism to share my own image of myself: that’s the entire point of social media.

Photo on 2013-08-11 at 17.13

I’m taking Elyse’s invitation to personally reclaim the selfie. I love seeing my face plastered all over the internet and if no one else will do it for me, then gosh darn I’ll do it myself!