I attended a talk called, “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now” during SXSW, with author Douglas Rushkoff. Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. Further disclaimer: the concepts in his talk will smack you in the face and send you down the rabbit hole.
So, what is present shock? It’s what we experience in our information overload, tweet it, Facebook it, stream it, Instagram it, post it, always on, always live, always available world. It’s the fact that we aren’t really sure when the past, present, and future begin and end. We demand to know the future right now, but we believe “now” is what’s happening on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. The thing is, the posts on social media platforms are actually in the past. By the time you shoot it, edit it, tag it, and post it as a status update, the moment is already gone. In fact, the moment that you’re living NOW is the moment that you’re spending posting whatever moment just happened in the past! I know, kinda complicated to follow, but think about it. When was the last time you left your smart phone at home while attending a concert? When was the last time you didn’t check in when you landed at a destination? When was the last time you ate your freakin’ food without taking a picture of it? We think that our pictures and tweets and status updates are real life, and that we’re living in the now by capturing every detail of every moment.
There’s a new trend to rebel against the hyper-digital world. I came across a blog of a mom that was lamenting the fact that she spent so much time trying to photograph and post pictures of her kids that she was actually missing spending time with them. She wasn’t holding them in her lap because she was too busy focusing the camera. She wasn’t playing catch or make-believe because she had to act as the history officer to capture every moment. She finally figured out that she was, in fact, living every moment tethered to her smart phone. I realized my own hypocrisy in this area while at SXSW: I was so busy tweeting my sound bites that I was missing content in the moment. I started skimming all my sessions for the tweet, and then I end up in this session that’s telling me that my tweets aren’t really life. And you know what I did? I tweeted that. It’s the definition of an oxymoron!
My husband went backpacking recently, and left our fancy camera at home. I was shocked, and quite frankly, so was he. But, he made an amazing point, “Yeah, I’ll probably be bored, but that’s a good thing.” Yes, cameras capture so much beauty, but they are far inferior to the human eye. Twitter makes information digestible in bite-sized tidbits, but nothing satisfies quite like reading Ayn Rand or Agatha Christie in paperback form by a river. A photo of a steak is enticing, but man, enjoying that first hot bite is truly delicious. My mom planned amazing birthday parties long before Pinterest made us all feel inferior and lacking in creativity (Aladdin castle made from recycled fabric bolts? AMAZING!)
So, life: will you choose to live it or capture it?