Don't Just Live Life For The Photos

by Lauren Martin

Life is precious. Life is fleeting. Life is in the photos.

I’ve spent the past two years of my seemingly adult life defending my right to abstain from Instagram with a rehearsed and automatic reply of, "But I just don’t like taking pictures." This response is almost always rebutted with, "Well, you don’t have to take any; you can just look at other people’s.”

At this point, I usually just concede and tell them I’ll download it later, rather than telling them what I really think, which is that I could give less than two sh*ts about looking at girls pose in bikinis, or my Asian friend’s pasta bowls and breakfast that looks like a smiley face of fried eggs (had it looked like Jesus’ penis, then that would be photo worthy).

I think my main reason for not succumbing to the app is what it says about our generation and how it plays into everything that’s wrong with the way Millennials live their lives: for the photos.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned. Maybe I’m nostalgic for days I’ve never lived. Maybe I’m stubborn and ignorant. Maybe I’m a romantic. Still, I yearn for the days when people don’t attend concerts with phones in front of their eyes, spend gatherings posing for group photos, or judge the quality of the food at dinner dates by how photogenic it is.

In an increasingly frustrating epidemic, I can’t help but wonder, why is it that we're more concerned about the memories than we are for the moment? Do we have it backwards?

I’m jealous of the days of our parents, the days without cell phones, Facebook, Twitter and just “convenient” technology, in general. There was no need to worry about having a good profile picture or proving you went to a concert with the videos you managed to record. Life was simple, life was good, life was unfiltered.

Experiences were lived and moments were left unrecorded. Your best friend wasn’t spending half of your birthday party taking pictures with people you don’t even know or uploading an unflattering view of you with your head in the toilet rather than holding back your hair.

In my opinion, we’ve lost focus of life and its meaning: to live. We’ve become obsessed with competing against one another for who is living it better. That’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it?

Isn’t that why your friend who barely hangs out with you becomes obsessed with recording every moment for an album of your night that looks way more fun than anything that actually happened? Isn’t that why you pose for pictures doing a keg stand and eating pizza at the new pizza place? To prove you were doing something cool? To prove to everyone on Facebook that your life is worthwhile?

What if we all just put down the phone and stopped competing? What if we all just left the photos out of it and enjoyed the moment? What if we just tell people we went to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert rather than Snapchatting it?

I’m telling you with sincere concern that you are wasting your life recording your moments. There’s absolutely no way you can be fully embracing the present if you are behind a camera. You can’t feel the ocean breeze if you’re worried about it messing up your hair. You can’t taste chocolate cake through a filter.

Life is about those uncaptured moments, the memories that are sacred between you and your best friends because you guys were there; you lived them together. Life is about spontaneity and jumping into a lake (which you can’t do with a phone attached to your hand) because it looks refreshing. Life is about taking off to Paris with your lover and coming back to no one knowing the wiser -- because that time, that moment, was between the two of you.

Why do we need the validation of "likes" to know that we are living? When did laughing with friends over dinner, recalling those stupid drunken nights become insufficient? When did observing the raw aspect of life as fleeting and unique become outdated?

I’m just asking you to remember to live. I’m asking you to remember how the generations before us lived, without the incessant need to digitize every moment, every feeling, every milestone. I’m asking you to forget the camera for a day and appreciate your hike for the nature and the beauty of it, not for the "likes" you expect to receive on your photo of a tree.

Photo via Tumblr