Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Mediated Life: If You Don't Take a Picture and Share It, Did It Happen?

© 2012 Sylvia Liu


Yesterday morning, I had one of the most wonderful experiences since I moved to Virginia Beach. I went running with a good friend at the Boardwalk, a 3 mile stretch along a beautiful, sandy beach that is filled with tourists in the summer but is almost empty on a winter morning. It was about 8:30 a.m., well after sunrise, but the sky was still pink and soft. The water was completely calm, not a ripple to be seen. As we ran the 6 mile round trip, we were paced (or outpaced) by hundreds of dolphins swimming about 20 yards offshore in groups of 4 or 5. The whole hour, we kept seeing the dolphins swimming south. Some were playful and jumped out of the water. We couldn't get over how many dolphins we saw and we kept interrupting our run just to marvel at the sight (I've often seen dolphins in the water, but never this close to shore and so many).

But what did I think at least once while running? That I wish I had a camera and how I'd describe the scene on Facebook. Nick Bilton of the New York Times had a similar experience and blogged about it, resolving to enjoy life unplugged from his iPhone. Why do we feel a need to share every special moment online, even with relative strangers? Is it to validate the experience? To cement the memory? To share something excellent in our life?


Zen is about being in the present, in the moment, without the commentary running. I'm not sure I can do that, but it's one of my 2012 resolutions. 



Update 1/17/12: I just came across an article that says this but more eloquently. Social theorist Nathan Jurgensen writes about how social media sites are training people to view life through a "Facebook eye" lens.  


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25 comments:

  1. If I didn't blog about the book I just read, did I really read it? I have mixed feelings about this "unplugged" idea. At my age, mid-fifties, if I don't write it down, take a picture, record it somehow, I am likely not to remember at all, or at least to remember very dimly. It's fun, and maybe valuable(?), to capture those memories for later perusal. However, the recording can get in the way of the moment. So, as usual, I'm not sure what to think.

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  2. I think everyone should unplug themselves from time to time. My husband and I turn our cellphones off when we got out to dinner or a show or whatever. It's our time to reconnect. I love blogging and reading about other's people lives. At the same time my biggest pet peeve is people who are constatnly texting someone else when they are already sitting and "visting" with someone.

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  3. Your morning sounds lovely! Thanks for a reminder to be in the moment!

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  4. I think we should add that to our resolutions. I notice you have a Pirate Picture Books post. You might enjoy our SCBWI author Pirate Alphabet. http://youtu.be/scELy4oxtFU

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    1. That's a great video. Thanks for letting me know about it!

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  5. Sylvia,
    What a remarkable experience, and perhaps that was what you were feeling- that urge to remark on the experience. Then again, aren't we our own worthy audiences when we feel a need to reflect and comment? Guess that's what diaries and journals used to be, pre FB/Twitter.
    Do you know the picture book John J. Muth's Zen Shorts? http://bit.ly/wpToL3

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    1. Yes, thanks for your comment. I am a big fan of Jon Muth. I love his Three Questions and I reviewed Zen Shorts: http://bit.ly/xjtABh

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  6. I do understand what you are saying, and I have had those "gotta post about this" moments you described. Balance is key, just as it is in all of life's aspects. I don't have a phone I can text on, and I rarely post on Facebook. Though I enjoy blogging, I also enjoy breaks from blogging. Pretty content with that balance.

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    1. I agree about limits/breaks. Not using handhelds to post is my way of stepping back to be sure I am living real life as well as online life.

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  7. That's a great New Years Resolution. Sometimes I think people are so concerned about sharing what they did, they disconnect from the experience.

    www.theadvantagepoint.wordpress.com

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  8. I'm glad you shared this experience. I would have wanted a camera with me too.

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  9. When my son had his winter concert at school I basically watched through a video screen rather than actually watching him. That was my shock of maybe I should unplug a little. It's hard, as we live halfway around the world from my parents and loved ones, so I want to share with them and technology allows me to do it, but I don't want my life to stop in favour of that.

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    1. I've had that experience too. I hate it that some of my special memories of my kids were seen through a tiny screen.

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  10. I, too, sometimes find myself thinking, "why didn't I bring my camera." And sometimes I realize that for some of the moments that I wouldn't have thought that before I started blogging.

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  11. I think we all have moments like this - I know I had one this morning while walking the dog. I realized I did not have my ipod - but I heard the birds!

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  12. Yeah, I used to carry a camera at all times but not lately. I don't need to take pix of EVERYTHING.

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    1. I tried to leave a comment at the w/e but for some reason, the comment box isn't coming up except now I've hit 'reply' on Jim's comment - so this isn't really a reply to Jim - though it's kind of in a similar vein! I found I didn't take as many pictures last year as I usually do, and at first, I was slightly upset about this, but then, looking at the photos I did take, I realised they provide a healthy batch of memories, and then that I've really been able to enjoy my walks etc so much by not always having the camera with me. But I am going to carry out a systematic project one day, of photographing the same view on one of my dog walks every time I go there for a year or something... And I will be trying to keep the camera in my pocket at all times. Ah well...

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  13. What a wonderful post -- thank you! And you're so right: Zen is about being in the moment. When we're so focused on "capturing" the moment with our cameras, phones, or whatever else, we inherently take ourselves out of the experience, even if it's just for a little bit. It's always great to share, but sometimes it's sublime to just enjoy, without rushing to document the experience.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, and I agree with you completely.

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  14. I don't struggle with the idea of not posting everything to Facebook- I don't really do that anyway. BUT... I tend to want to photograph everything. I've always taken photos, but as I get more into it, I take more and more. I would have had the exact same thought as you if I had seen the dolphins. Sometimes I need to just put the camera down.

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    1. I'm like that too. It's too easy to take so many pictures with digital, and do we ever even look at it all?

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  15. This is something that has bothering me ever since people could take pics or videos with their phones. Now if you see any event, you'll see that all of the people at the event are angling to get their phones to capture the event for them - the event that they are currently experiencing. Watching the New Year's Eve celebration there were people close to the stage taping Lady Gaga on their phones instead of watching the show! I like taking pictures, but I am not going to let it take over my experiences.

    Oh, and I'm a frequent VA Beach visitor - my mom lives there - and I love seeing the dolphins from the shore. So cool that you saw that many and that playful.

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    1. Everyone in my family has always been a shutterbug and my college friends used to complain that I was always snapping pictures. I do appreciate having those memories now (and they are prints in albums), but even I get annoyed now by the constant barrage of cell-phone-camera toting people.

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  16. Thanks for dropping by my blog on blogging efficiency, Sylvia. I came by to check out your newest goldfish illo and noticed this post about your run along the shore/boardwalk---I'm a sucker for posts about running.

    As for the recording an event on phone/camera, I like to see a pic or even a short video. But for me, the writing down of the experience is much richer, with all the nuances and reflections on the moment or the hour. What it looked like is fine but how did it feel to all the senses, not just the eyes? Check out http://www.blackwoodpress.com for a verbal snapshot of one fictional person's anticipation of an early morning run.

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    1. That's a really interesting point. I hadn't thought about the other way we solidify and share memories, which is through our words. Another great running read is "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by my favorite author, Haruki Murakami.

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