I know that I wrote — just a couple of days ago!! — all about how it would be better to think of people in acts of public creativity as 'bold' rather than awkward.
I know, I know, I know!
I remember all the things I said about how it doesn't matter that we're in public and look silly. That it doesn't matter!
I remember how I nicely framed the photographer hunched over her camera as triumphant instead of oblivious.
But man, I am sitting in a coffee shop watching a group of 20-somethings take photos of each other instead of _order the drinks they stood in line for, and I am recognizing why my brain flipped from 'bold' to 'awkward' years ago.
I'm in the process of building a personal theory around this that helps settle it in my mind, and I'm going to use these three friends that came into my local coffee shop as an example. I'm sorry to the three of them, but they are obviously living-out-loud, so I feel free to use them as subjects.
I believe that we did a bad thing when we…
1) Put a camera in the hand of every single living human
2) Gave them a dopamine boost when they shared those photos through the vehicle of Instagram
In doing so, we took the artistry out of the process.
You know all of those memes and old-man-tweets about how no one is truly 'living' anymore because we're all experiencing life through our phones? That is the wrong way to think about it. The more accurate way of describing what feels wrong is that we took the art out of capturing the world, and then we bolted the requirement of 'capturing' onto every human in the world who wasn't particularly interested in doing so in the first place, but can no longer not capture what they see.
I have been writing this for, I don't know, around ten minutes? And one of the three has been glued to her phone the entire time, captioning her photos for her Instagram Story. I can see her phone clearly, and she took a bad photo of her friend and wrote "LOL" across the top of the screen.
That did not require ten minutes of work.
That did not require her to be distant from her friends, absent from their conversation, for the majority of their time in the coffee shop.
The contribution she made to the social network was insignificant — yet we've tied more significance to that process than we have the actual social interaction with the ones around us.
My wife and I recently had a funny conversation based around my morning routine. Every morning I like to wake up early, drive to a coffee shop, sit, drink an espresso, read, and write. I spend about an hour doing this every day. It is my singular major life indulgence. This time is sacred, while all other hours of my life are happilly at the whim of others.
Sometimes Kristine wakes up early in the moring and wants to come with me. When she does, my stay at the coffee shop is usually a little shorter. My productivity is a little less focused.
It just isn't as fun.
A few days ago as I was heading to a coffee shop, Kristine was awake and debating whether or not to come. She said "Oh, sorry, I think I'm going to stay behind today." I responded by saying (and I promise I said this in, like, a funny way) "Oh, that's fine, I honestly didn't want you to."
Kristine laughed and said that she, as an introvert, knew the feeling. Then she said something that I feel encapsulates it so perfectly:
"Sometimes being with one another is like holding onto a dessert that you are really going to want later, but you definitely don't want now. But you can't just put the dessert down, you have to carry it from place to place. And every time you look at it you think 'Aw, I can't wait to enjoy this. But now isn't the right time!' Being together can be like that."
I lost it — that analogy is perfect! And I have decided that our technology is often like that dessert. The problem is that we can't stop ourselves from eating it. We have the phone in our hands, and the camera is right there, and ooh, there's something that would look so good if I took a photo, and if I upload it right now I will get that shot of dopemine sooner!
Never mind that you have friends trying to talk with you.
Never mind that you have a barista waiting for your order.
Never mind that you may be visiting a city that you may never be in again, your memories now dulled because you didn't see clearly.
The promise of the dessert was too great.