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‘We’re so obsessed with documenting our life on social media, we’re forgetting to live it’

Put your phones away and live your life without the lens, writes Andrew McGinley.

Andrew McGinley

I FIND IT discouraging to witness the way in which we experience the world has been altered so dramatically in recent times.

This change has coincided with the onslaught of technology and social media production, which is synonymous with our lives. It’s hard to believe that there once existed a time when good, old fashioned, natural memory was the only of method relaying their own unique version of events to others.

Those who were not fortunate enough to possess any kind of a photographic device actually had to experience events, occasions and sights through their eyes.

The ‘if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen’ mindset

The media obsessed age we now find ourselves in unfortunately paints a drastically different picture. The mind-set of “If it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen” and a frightening availability of internet access have created an ever growing reliance on social media.

As mobile internet and more traditional internet slowly merge, social media has emerged as the predominant medium of connectivity between people. This thriving popularity is contributing, in my opinion to an addiction that should be discussed in the same vein as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.

shutterstock_251204560 Source: Shutterstock/Marko Subotin

It first struck me four years during a Mumford and Sons gig. So eager had I been to obtain some top class, first hand footage of what was my favourite band at the time I forgot to enjoy the show. I came to the realisation half way through the show that I had been applying more attention to obtaining footage of my experience than I was to actually experiencing it.

Rigidly I stood there with both two feet planted firmly on the muddy ground below me, squinting at the little five inch screen which my arms were growing tired of holding up high, ensuring that I got the most impressive shot possible.

Looking at the gig through my phone

As soon as it dawned on me, there was a brief spell of self-pondering. The crowd around me were jumping around carelessly with their hands in the air. They were absorbed in the moment. I immediately got rid of my phone. Shame was hanging over me. In an act of redemption, I set about doing what should have been my concern from the beginning; making my own contribution to the electrifying atmosphere that surrounded me.

Those were the formative years of the smartphone frenzy. Since then, the situation seems to have escalated fiercely. The dramatic surge in popularity of photographic based social medias, such as Snapchat and Instagram, has us transfixed by the necessity to capture everything, from the brilliant to the more basic and boring.

To most, the effects of this brutal obsession won’t be evident. An overwhelming desire to update ‘’My Story’’ on Snapchat and to take countless choreographed group pictures has changed the spirit of social interaction.

shutterstock_229725688 Source: Shutterstock/g-stockstudio

 

There is a little glimmer of guilt that creeps up on our conscience every time we sacrifice social engagement. The same guilt is easily outweighed by the need to “capture the moment”.

Real, genuine, conversation is being sacrificed in favour of peering through the lens. Sadly, this sacrifice goes largely unnoticed.

People on their phones in the pub 

Venture into any pub in your locale which attracts crowds of younger people and you are sure to witness the phenomenon in full effect. In what is considered in most towns and cities as the epicentre of socialising, bars should be one place where one can break off the shackles of social media.

For at least a few hours in a week we should be able to engage in some silly, undocumented fun with friends.

Instead, a constant awareness of serial “snappers” makes for two reactions. On one hand, you have individuals reluctant to let loose, fearful of any footage of their antics surfacing online. On the other, individuals playing to the cameras in some kind of unnatural, pitiful act, in a vain attempt to appear “born entertainers”.

Along with this there is sure to be dozens of selfie taking girls (and boys!) stretching their limbs for the perfect angle, “duckfaces” abound, clogging up the dancefloor and disrupting the few who came to have a genuinely good time.

shutterstock_144889726 Source: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

It’s frightening to consider how fast this technological craze has gripped us adolescents. Barely five years ago, there seemed to be only a few blocky digital cameras floating around the vicinity. Little thought was given to pictures that couldn’t be shared instantly.

What does the future hold?

Back then, someone had to acquire the time to upload them to a more basic version of Facebook. An excitement ensued from flicking through a beautiful, messy and simply natural collection of mementos from a great night. The youth today are more aware of their online presence.

With software advancing so rapidly, who knows what’s in store? What’s to come for the children who will have already grown up with the lens as part of their everyday lives?

Who knows, maybe someday we’ll see a change. Maybe we’ll see a return of old dusty photo albums in the back of peoples cupboards, proper socialising in pubs and clubs and the opportunity for young men and women to jump around with their hands in the air in the front row at their favourite band without worrying about who sees it, but themselves.

Andrew McGinley is a 21-year-old blogger from County Galway. You can follow his blog here

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