My friends and I are typically what you may call “semi-outdoorsy” on the weekend. When you go to school toward east Tennessee you either go hiking, Eno, or Frisbee golf on the weekends. So like any typical weekend I text one of my favorite hiking buddies about going that Friday. Unfortunately, her and I were both pretty busy that day. But I was convinced we were going hiking that day! So I decided that because we both didn’t have much time to actually be hiking that we should just go to Bee Rock. Bee Rock is about a five-minute simple walk into the woods. The trail is just far enough that when you reach the trail’s end, which is a cliff, you cannot see the parking lot anymore. So the wild adventurers that my friend and I are, we drove all that way to make the 5-minute trek. Due to my lack of planning ahead we got to the trail 15 minutes before closing. So we ran all the way to the cliff edge. My friend got out her phone and started snapchatting away. But snapchat was not enough for me. To my friend’s surprise I had brought a backpack of different clothes to change into. She just laughed because it is so typical of me to bring outfit changes just for photos. After her and I rush through as many outfit and hair style changes as possible in the few remaining minutes that the trail was open, we still ran back to my car with less than a minute before closing.
As the afternoon went on we went to a small old café, strolled town the town square and ended up at a cute little Hispanic market. During the moments after the hiking “photo shoot” my friend and I had more fun in those unplanned moments. Our laughs were more genuine than the ones in the photos on the cliff. I didn’t notice it at the time, but after my phone died and we were relying on her phone solely to get us out of those backroads in an unfamiliar town, we weren’t taking photos anymore. There wasn’t any “Wait repeat that, I was trying to snapchat video that!” I wasn’t touching up my makeup throughout our afternoon for photos. We were being completely natural and unplanned. We looked the way we would if we had never thought about “How many likes would my fishtail braid for this hike get?” Or “Oh!I shouldn’t say that because who knows who is going to watch her snapchat story.” Every expression and reply was pure.
It has come to my attention lately that I live for a photo. I can’t get through my daily routine without stopping to take a photo to let the whole world know that I’m a functioning human. The fact that taking all these photos takes away from the experience and takes even more time than it should is bad enough. But these overly staged photos that have become a new trend for many Instagramers is taking living through the eyes of a camera lenses to a new level. Even though I get a coffee as least once a day. Which is a very normal activity for a college student. Sometimes I feel the need to place that coffee on a table with a perfectly arranged table of interesting literature opened on a random page, highlighted on sentences I’ve never read. What am I even proving putting so much enough into something I’m not actually doing? In the time it took me to get just the right angle and pick a blue washed filter, I’ve let my coffee go cold, had half the coffee shop looking to see what I’m doing, and probably had enough time to actually read the book. It’s not even like I am fooling anyone when I take these over planned out photos. We can all spot out the typical phony Instagram photos. “The Exotic Eater”: The photo of some raw, chia filled, covered in alfalfa sprouts (which no one actually tastes) Greek yogurt thing. “The Musical Mystery”: The photo with a carefully placed instrument that you never actually learned to play in the background. Just so someone will see it and think “Dang she is talented!”. “The Post Gym Perfection”: The photo that was captioned to be taken after a tough workout. But everyone knows it’s not even possible to be without a red face and sweat spots in a post workout picture. The list can go on and on of photos that we are all guilty of taking just for the sake of the photo itself.
I’m not trying to sound like a parent going on a rant about how millennials use social media too often. I think social media is a great thing, to an extent of course! But the fact that I can’t eat a meal, take a walk, and have a cute outfit on, with documented proof is kind of sad. How many of these things do I actually remember seeing? Or do I just look back at the photo for reference of the experience. So many girls my age follow Instagram bloggers posting dozens of photos a day advertising their clothes, makeup, or home décor. I know there have been many times when I told my friends that my goal in life is to become and Instagram famous mom, with cute kids, and an attractive husband. But the look of perfect is rarely perfection at all! We get this idea stuck in our head that if the images look put together, then our life must be that way too. What people often don’t know is that off to the side of that new vase of flower that was strategically placed in front of the window beside the ukulele, is a mess of unorganized homework. We get so jealous of peoples’ lives from the photos we see. Yet we don’t know what they cropped. We don’t know what blemish they blurred. If we all were to take photos of the reality of the photo, we would have less expectation in real life. I know myself and many other friends have a fear that just because someone thinks your photos are attractive doesn’t mean we are insured they will feel the same when they see you in person. Because we can’t just hold a filter over our face everywhere we go. We can’t crop out the mess in our room when people actually come to visit.
We have become a society that misses out on the actual experience and filters out the reality. When our grandparents tell us about all their crazy adventures of their youth they recall an experience typically. Of course they have some of photos om occasion of events. But not a camera roll of 700 photos from Spring Break alone. A quote I think about a lot when I notice I’m looking through a screen more than the actual image is a quote from my favorite movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, “If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.” The quote reminds me that there is much more to be seen on the other side of the lenses. I want to be able to tell my grandchildren about all my adventures without saying “Sorry kids, after that IPhone 6 shattered, I replaced my phone and lost all my pictures, Instagram became the new Myspace, and forgot my iCloud password (because we never actually print these photos). Now I don’t have any way to show you the experience.” I’m sure in a few hours I will go back to my selfie taking ways. But for the moments that matter, I hope I start looking at it with my own eyes.