Imagine with me, if you will, that you’re at a concert of one of your favorite bands. You have arrived fashionably late but manage to squeeze yourself into some prime standing real estate, behind a girl who is shorter than you, and only four rows of people away from the stage. Not too shabby. You wait and wait, and conveniently, once your feet start to hurt, the lights dim, the proverbial curtain rises and the stars of the show take their place, audience cheering. You’re euphoric — when it comes to the concert experience, you have nailed it.
But don’t be so quick to rejoice. The band strikes the first chord, and suddenly the stage is obstructed. Why? What has happened? Well, a sea of arms has risen up above heads, propping up hands holding iPhones set to record. For you, it’s nearly impossible to see. For the others, well, why does it matter if they watch the concert now when they can just experience it all later, over and over again on high-definition screens wherever they go? You’re left with a choice — join the electronic revolution and experience things solely through pixels like a Cubist nightmare, or settle on not seeing a show you paid good money for. With an air of defeatism you allow yourself to become another human tripod, just a stabilizing ground for your smartphone to take a video that automatically gets spammed to Facebook, a picture that your followers see on Instagram and Twitter and an actual experience missed.
It seems to be a common practice that’s now just pure human habit. Is something crazy happening? Well, what are you waiting for? Pull out your phone and take a picture. We’re really naturals at gawking, which is the reason we have traffic jams after small accidents — you can’t help but join the masses, slow down and take a look. Social media sites have done nothing but justify this kind of behavior, by giving us a million different places to chronicle anything and everything that’s going on. Your life, no matter how well-lived, isn’t considered worthy unless you have so many followers on Twitter, so many friends on Facebook, so many reblogs on Tumblr and so on. So it has almost become a challenge of who can document it best, turning the focus away from actually enjoying the things that are happening in front of our faces, to capturing them instead.
I take you next to the dystopian worlds created in literary works such as “1984”, “Fahrenheit 451” and “Brave New World,” to name a few. A mixture of pessimism and lack of faith in the human race has led me to a love affair with novels telling of a future that we have ruined ourselves, and I believe that these social media sites that have convinced us that we are all worthy of being encapsulated autobiographically are just a small step down a road leading us to a world much like those great authors have warned us about, and here is why — if our only enjoyment comes from likes on Facebook and retweets on Twitter, we’re going to forget how to live our lives like humans instead of robots dependent on electronics for survival.
“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”
–Aldous Huxley, author of “Brave New World”
Huxley isn’t mistaken, either. We’re taking so many things for granted, and being enabled to do so with our smartphones and computers. Watching a sunset over the ocean counts just as much, if not more, if you watch as that last lip of light disappears over the edge of the water, even if you don’t quite catch it on camera. While you were busy chronicling your existence, the world continued to spin around you and no matter how much your social media accounts make it look like you have lived, you’re completely missing the fact that life is more than a sepia-toned photo — it’s about truly experiencing the world we live in. So put the phone down, and live a little.
Paige Pfleger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.