Are you having actual experiences? Or do you do things simply for the sake of recording and sharing them? It may seem like a silly question, but it’s worth thinking about.
This week comedian Louis C.K. did an iama (“I Am A…”), which is essentialy an intrview with the Reddit hivemind. Reddit loves Louis, so the results were wonderful, but I want to talk about one comment in particular. Louis only recently rose to national prominence, and is now regularly recognized on the streets of New York City where he lives. When a Redditor asked Louis how he feels about this, Louis explained why fans wanting pictures with him made him enjoy meeting them less, at least until he stopped doing pictures with them.
“Every person on the planet now has a camera,” said Louis, “so it sometimes happens that up to 20 people in one day or more want me to pose with them for a picture that they can put it on Facebook. That’s a lot. Also I don’t like doing it. It makes me feel weird.”
He didn’t always mind connecting with fans. In fact, he used to love it: “I remembered that when it was earlier in my career, when someone would say something like, once or twice day, I really liked it and felt genuine interest in them and gratitude”.
So Louis adapted a new policy. “I refuse to ever take a picture with anyone,” he said. “I just say no. I don’t do that. But I shake their hand and I talk to them for a bit. Because I like that. I can tell this disappoints people for a second but as we talk they feel okay about it.”
An actual conversation. An actual experience. To me, that’s better than a photo.
Not so long ago, if you wanted to take pictures, you had to conciously decide to carry a camera with you. Not anymore. Everyone carries their cell phones everywhere, and all of them have built-in cameras.
So we take pictures constantly, creating an entire genre of photos we didn’t have a word for just ten years ago: the Facebook photo. It’s a quick snap of yourself and your friends, with a touch of where you are in the background, taken primarily to document the fact that you hung out with a given friend.
These photos can be fun, but they can also take away from actually enjoying a given moment.
In 2006 I wrote about how technology was starting to intrude on real moments, in real life. Some friends and I, during a trip to the St. Louis, stumbled upon a view of the World Series from the top story of a parking garage. It was amazing, but when I turned to my friends to talk to them about it I was interupted by cell phones. Everyone was on the phone, asking if their friends and famailes were watching the game and explaining that they were watching the game from a parking garage. I couldn’t share the moment with them, because they were sharing it with someone else.
People pay more attention to their phones now than I could have imagined way back in 2006. What you pay attention to matters, however, so I”m going to ask again: are you having actual experiences? Or do you do things simply for the sake of recording and sharing them?
Think about it. Sure: you can look at photos and videos whenever you want, but actual experiences only happen once.