Hello lovely people
In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman presented a ‘thought experiment’: what if you go on holiday and you know that at the end of the holiday all your photos or videos would be destroyed or deleted. How would that change your experience of your holiday? It’s a thought-provoking question and perhaps one that has relevance in our world of constant connectedness through social media.
A Social Media Bear-Trap
My social media use has increased greatly over the last couple of years and recently I’ve wondered, with a growing sense of disquiet, if there is a risk that some of my experiences are becoming mediated through my imagined next post, tweet or text. Instead of asking myself, ‘What is this like for me now?’ I might just be falling into a bear trap of wondering how the experience might look on my Facebook page. So, does the social media lens change the experience? That’s a philosophical question too large for this short post but one that’s perhaps worth pondering upon.
A few weeks ago I was at a poetry weekend in beautiful Cumbria. Just after sunrise on one of the mornings I stepped out onto the lawn of my B&B, mug of tea in hand and looked out towards the most incredible view. My instant reaction was to return to my room for my camera. For some reason I resisted the pull towards that desire to record something for posterity (and, let’s face it, for Facebook!) and I allowed myself to just stand there and to take it all in, with my own human micro and wide-angle lens.
To begin with it was difficult, uncomfortable even. I felt I was going to have nothing of this experience to ‘take away’. And I admit there was a big part of me that felt as though I was watching a social medial opportunity slipping away.
But soon the swallows were darting past my ears, catching insects around my head. The B&B’s cat came to join me on the seat next to where I was standing. A hare stood in the next field and seemed to observe me just as I was observing it. The sun was rising behind me, warming my back.
Beauty for Beauty’s Sake
What not taking a photograph did was to allow me to be a part of the scene rather than just being an observer. It meant that I was thinking about the moment for its own sake and on my terms rather than having at the back of my mind other people’s response to a facsimile of my moment. It was just that – my moment.
In a recent Radio 4 programme (yes, I know – I spend far too much time listening to Radio 4!), Oliver Burkeman, the anti-busyness guru, interviewed Maria Popova of Brain Pickings who said something that really struck a chord with me. She noted that the compulsion to ‘share’ on social media has the potential to ‘corrupt the moment’, that –
…busyness is the systematic siphoning of beauty.
If, like me you have several social media accounts, it can often feel like a bunch of unfinished tasks nagging at you through the ether. Unfinished tasks keep our brains busy, they stop us enjoying ‘now’ as they prod us into avoidance, stress or over-action. And soon we can begin to feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed, I would argue, is the enemy of living a creative life. Of course, social media can contribute to creativity through the dissemination of ideas and knowledge. I’ve written many a poem that has been informed by something I’ve Googled! But the compulsion to share a moment in order to keep up an online presence (or persona) can propel us into reaching for our phone, camera or laptop precisely when our brains might need to just drift. I feel that, for me the social media compulsion can add a layer of complexity to an otherwise uncomplicated hiatus in my day.
No, I won’t be stopping taking photographs nor will I be refraining from posting on social media – no siree! But I believe that, just once in a while, our creative self needs a moment that’s just its own self-contained, personal work of art – beautifully framed solely by the edges of our memory and imagination.
If you’d like to share your thoughts and ideas, please do be in touch. I’d love to hear from you.
Until my next post…
You come across a view or a moment you feel compelled to photograph and record. I invite you to spend a few moments doing nothing. Notice how you are feeling. If you’re anything like me at first your brain might go into a bit of a panic, sending out signals to compel you towards action. But now notice how you begin to settle, how you gradually start to look and to see in a different, more expansive way. You might even begin to link up your senses: the sound of the grass cutter and the sharp tang of cut grass; the city’s buildings reflected in a sky-scraper and the closeness of other commuters – all grist for the artistic mill, if not simply, grist for the soul.
Just for now, it’s okay to take away the pressure to record, to document, to share.
Just for now it’s okay to be the only person who ‘likes’ your moment.
Just for now, let your view be unencumbered by a viewfinder or by the perceived gaze of some distant ‘other’.