As a wedding photographer, I spend a lot of time around people who are eager to document a monumental moment in the lives of those they love. I’ve seen it 100 times over – the bride is walking down the aisle, her father is holding her shaking frame steady as she teeters on impractical heels for any other occasion, he is trying to compose himself for her as a tear slips down his cheek. Her mom is looking down the aisle at them both, beaming. It’s a beautiful moment, and I watch it kneeling and photographing at the end of the aisle. Suddenly, the bride disappears and I’m watching her entrance via the screen of a smart phone or – even worse – a tablet.
Later, I’ll see that photo posted on Instagram under the couple’s custom hashtag. It’s grainy, it has a shoddy filter thrown overtop of it – but the likes are rolling in. Then, I’ll post my version of the photo – crisp and clear – people staring adoringly at the bride. There will also be another version of my photo which features many of her guests watching her through a smart phone; completely non-existent in the moment that they were invited to experience.
Cut to the next scene: you’re now at a concert, sporting event, public speaking engagement (your choice!) and you look around to see yourself engulfed in people who are all trying to tweet, gram, post or check-in at the event. No, really, look around. Patrons aren’t experiencing the event, they’re watching it through a screen and creating an augmented reality of their own lives.
Experience is the key word in the previous paragraphs. We are killing the experience of just about everything. Society is caught up in the idea of sharing our every move (only the good stuff, of course). I’m guilty of it – I want to share all the incredible things in my life, and I want to see all the wonderful things that my friends are doing as well. However, I need to be conscious of my participation in my life as well. I want to have real memories, not ones cropped to square format.
I will be the first to admit that social media is an addiction. I will open Instagram, close Instagram and then almost immediately open Instagram again. Nothing has happened, nothing has changed. Honestly, if anything major were to happen in my friends’ lives, they would pick up the phone and call me to tell me about it (or at least send a detailed text message). I wouldn’t have to find out over social media.
So, as the summer months creep onto us and we’re at weddings, cookouts, concerts and other events, I encourage you to really experience them. I’m not asking you to not take photos or to not post them – please share. I’m asking you to take the photos and then put your phone away. You can post them later and people will still be searching the hashtag for days. And, if you are lucky enough to experience a wedding where there is a hired photographer, put your phone away. Your smiling face will mean more to the bride and groom than any photo on social media.