I wish I came up with the title of this post, but it’s from the most recent New York magazine article by Andrew Sullivan. The article is accompanied with various well-known art history paintings, such as the one below by Caspar David Friedrich. Kim Dong-kyu altered these artworks by adding iPhones or androids in the hands of the subjects.
I remember learning about this painting titled, “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” (1818), in my 19th Century Art History class at Columbia University. The image is meant to convey self-reflection; and the great foggy vista as a metaphor for the unknown future. How fitting that in the 2016 version, the wanderer sees the future through a 2’4″ 2-dimensional screen.
I’ve been having difficulty with social media lately. I’ve both felt overwhelmed and at the same time uninterested by the never ending Snapchat/Instagram/Facebook/etc. feeds. There’s an overwhelming amount of information that I feel the need to stay up-to-date on, because god-forbid I don’t understand the latest meme. With the new Instagram Snapchat update, I’ve found myself going through every single story of all the 600+ people I follow, then scrolling through to see all their posted photos, then switching to snapchat to do it all over again. I’ve actually noticed that a lot of people will post similar stories to both their Instagram and Snapchat, which I guess makes sense because they can’t be living two lives in real time. But like, why?
To be fair, it’s mostly models, bloggers, and fashion “influencers” (yes, this is a real “job” now) who oversaturate their feeds with images. Because it’s their job to and they make a living off of it.
Recently, Vogue, Neiman Marcus, and other established fashion players have spoken out against these bloggers and the mayhem they are causing via iPhone. Sally Singer, Vogue’s creative digital director, urges bloggers to, “Please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style.”
I started modeling when I was 16 and in the past 8 years, I’ve seen a huge shift in the industry’s standards. I’ve had friends who are models tell me that when they walk into a casting, the director asks them to list all their social handles and number of followers. This is what the modeling industry has amounted to. And sure, some say that it’s a good thing that models have personalities and are not just silent hangers. But how does a heavily filtered and curated selfie with 289,000 likes equate to a good personality?
That’s more of personal issue I have with the presence of media. But Andrew Sullivan gets to the bigger and unforeseen problems that this digital obsession could have on society. “We are only beginning to get our minds around the costs, if we are even prepared to accept that there are costs. For the subtle snare of this new technology is that is lulls us into the belief that there are no downsides. It’s all just more of everything. Online life is simply layered on top of offline life. We can meet in person and text beforehand. We can eat together while checking our feeds… But of course, as I had discovered in my blogging years, the family that is eating together while simultaneously on their phones is not actually together. They are… ‘alone together.'”
Personally, I’ve only recently realized how much it bothers me to be with my friends, family, SO and also be on my phone. I feel immature, like a moody teenager, when I am. Because no matter how quick your eyes glance at your incoming messages, the person across from you can feel your attention drifting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to consciously value the time I have with people. But also as I’ve gotten older, it’s become more normal to communicate mostly via iPhone. Even most of the conversations I have in “real-time” are about some kind of information I got off my phone.
“By rapidly substituting virtual reality for reality, we are diminishing the scope of this interaction even as we multiply the number of people with whom we interact.”
I’m such a victim to all these “bad” habits that I can’t even preach about it without feeling guilty and wanting to effectively change my ways. So to wind this post down, because it is a bit of a rant (relevant rant), I’ve made a user-friendly list below of ways to take back your reality and live in the moment.
- Delete some social apps. I recently deleted Snapchat.
- Delete people you follow on Instagram or Twitter. For me, I personally don’t need to see 60 different kinds of avocado toast every morning, so I’ve deleted food-posters.
- Keep your phone away during meal times. Because food tastes just as good (and warmer) when 15+ photos aren’t taken prior. Be mindful while eating and have fluid conversations.
- Don’t look at your phone right before bed. This one is more for sleep purposes. Read a book, read a magazine, read something not on a screen…
- Don’t compare yourself to virtual reality. This one is tricky and takes a real conscious effort to avoid. I’m not sure who you follow, but on my Instagram feed it seems as if everyone is getting sent free products, always on vacation, always working out and eating out, and never working. THIS IS NOT REALITY. Do your own thing and see all this facade as just that, a curated front. I used to have to explain to my mom that just because I’m not posting photos of me studying doesn’t mean that’s not what I’m doing with the majority of my time.
- Call. Don’t text. I’m so bad at this one. But I’ve found that misinterpreted texts are worth the call. Also, it’s nice to hear a real laugh because “HAHAAA” and “LOL” seem to fall flat these days.
- Try a phone free weekend (or day). I know this one is impossible for some people because of work requirements, but if you can take one day (ex: Sunday) to just look around at the world and really connect with your surroundings and interactions. For me, it’s like free therapy just to be outside and breath fresh air without digital distractions.
- Weed. (Ed note: not my personal advice): But Andrew Sullivan suggests it: “Weed is a form of self-medication for an era of mass distraction, providing a quick and easy path where the ample space and time necessary for it are under siege.”
- Turn off notifications. I used to get notifications for every. single. app. that I had on my phone- news, likes, posts, messages, friend requests, etc. I turned off all my notifications (except text), and I’ve actually noticed how much less I glance at my phone.
- Let (some) experiences live in your memory. I honestly think my memory has gotten worse as I’ve become more reliant on images to remind me about trips I’ve taken or activities I’ve done. I’ve stopped video-ing concerts or being concerned with taking photos when I go out dancing with friends. Really, consciously, live and enjoy.