The phone camera is our biggest enemy

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This sunset photo features the Ludwig filter from Instagram. Photo courtesy of Dustin Hacker.
This sunset photo features the Ludwig filter from Instagram. (Photo by Dustin Hacker)

It is impossible for a college student to live without a cell phone. In fact, it would be difficult to find a moment when someone around you doesn’t have their cell phone with them. And of all of the students at the College, I would be willing to bet that over 90 percent of their cell phones are some type of smartphone. A smartphone is more than just a phone, it is closer to a pacifier.

Today, more than ever before, we as college students, young adults and citizens of our interconnected world are constantly glued to our phones. Whenever we want to communicate with someone who is not in our immediate vicinity, we go to the phone. Whenever we are bored, we go to the phone. How about an awkward situation like being an elevator? You probably go to the phone.

You get the point. The cell phone is a problem whether we realize it or not. There are also great things that come from having a cell phone, and we experience them everyday. However, in my opinion, the most hurtful feature on the cellphone is the camera.

Recently, I took a week off from using social media (which equates to Snapchat and Instagram for me) and I learned a lot about myself and the people around me. Simply put, Snapchat and Instagram serve very different purposes, but both are a waste of time.

Snapchat is the low quality, spontaneous lens of someone’s life. Someone will send you stupid selfies with dumb filters. You will see silly captions on insignificant pictures. And remember, all of this has to do with a picture or a video that will last no more than 10 seconds and can be seen for no longer than a 24 hours.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Snapchat and I use it all the time. But by taking a step away, I was able to see what really happens to me when I use it. By looking around and seeing everyone trying to capture the funny moment, or to see them wasting time taking a selfie with a silly filter, I realized that we are missing moments in life. By seeing them through a lens, we miss the feeling of seeing it with our eyes and being able to laugh or smile or cry about whatever just took place in front of us.

Instagram does the opposite; it glorifies and puts everything we do into a higher quality than reality.

Take a sunset for example: someone (in this case it could easily be me) is watching the sunset at the Battery. It is the perfect night and as the sun sets, the sky and clouds change color. They are beautiful. They make us wonder how something that spectacular could happen naturally. As the sun goes below the horizon, everyone at the Battery is so happy they made it to see the stunning color change that turns into night.

But there is something very inaccurate about my description of this situation. Go to the Battery during a sunset and look for yourself. Everyone there will take out their phone and take at least one picture of what they are witnessing; most people will take many more. Having watched the sunset at the Battery many times and having witnessed ‘phone camera syndrome,’ while also being a victim of it, I have learned something very thought-provoking.

Although people are at the Battery to enjoy the sunset, everyone is focused on trying to get the best picture so they can put it on Instagram or Snapchat and say, “Hey, look at the great sunset I saw tonight.” And in the desire of wanting to share it with everyone, they miss out on being able to appreciate what is taking place right in front of them.

Even worse – I am guilty of this too – after witnessing a beautiful sunset through the lens of our phone, when you go on Instagram to post the picture, you filter it to make it look as perfect as possible. Not only did you miss the sunset because you were too preoccupied trying to capture it, you then lie about how stunning it was.

Lying to others about the sunset and making them jealous of what they missed out on is one thing. But what is the good in lying to ourselves about a sunset? Especially when we are not able to remember or appreciate it in the future because we were so busy taking pictures and filtering what was naturally occuring right in front of us?

It may be a stretch, but I think the cell phone, and specifically the phone camera, has distracted us from what life has to offer. If we are able to wake up and realize what the phone camera has done, we may be able to gain back what we are missing and really be able to appreciate what is happening. Life is short – so why waste it? And you only get to live in each moment once, so why not live it through your eyes rather than through a lens?

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