I’m writing this from India so I’m gonna sound a bit like a gap year wanker for a bit, but let’s go with it. To set the scene for you, I’m in a village called Tordi sat on the first floor terrace of a 400 year old house. I have my feet up and I can hear bollywood style music coming from a handful of cars as they slowly wind through the dirt tracks of the village. Pigeons and other birds (no idea what they are) are cooing above me. It’s late afternoon and the air is cooling, making it more of a manageable temperature but still giving me that comforting warmth that I rarely get in England.
I’ve seen loads far. India is an instagram addict’s wet dream. Everywhere you turn there’s a picture. I took a hot air balloon ride with 5 American OAP’s. One of the guys (from Oklahoma) was discussing with the balloon driver (is that the correct term?!) a camel festival which runs annually “That’d be a great picture!” Mr Middle America said with much enthusiasm. What an odd thing for this guy to say. It stuck me as particularly weird coming from someone older than my Dad. It seems the lust for documenting every single thing hasn’t escaped the baby boomers.
A few days earlier I was at the Taj Mahal. As soon as we got in view of this beautiful feat of architecture, there they were, the tourists, out with their phones taking selfies. You know the type, duck face, phone at an angle, arm outstretched above their eyeline (to get the “right” angle), snapping away. I’m not saying they shouldn’t take selfies. Far from it, I certainly did, I just think there’s nothing wrong with living in the moment and letting it wash over you. Selfies shouldn’t be the priority.
In December I went to see the 1975 at the 02 arena in London. Everyone had their phones out taking pictures, videos, what’s app-ing voice notes to their friends, uploading pictures to Facebook, snap chat, Instagram, tweeting etc (myself included). Matty, the lead singer, asked that there be one song where everyone just put their phones away and enjoy the music. 65% of the phones went away. It was way less off putting. I didn’t have the anxiety of which part of the song would make the best picture. And aside from the one I uploaded to instagram, I’m unlikely to ever spend a lot of time looking back at the pictures anyway. A few weeks later I watched a Queen concert off of the 80’s on Sky. Obviously no one had phones, or even cameras. Every single person clapped along to Radio Gaga in perfect unison. We never used to record every moment, why do we do it now?
What are we trying to prove? Why do we need to post stuff? Social media profiles aren’t even real. They are an edited version of our lives that show only the positive. They are literally and figuratively filtered to fuck. We get some sort of weird validation from the likes we get for the pictures and status updates. It’s almost: if you don’t have at least one picture of a meal, one of hot dog legs on a beach and one multi filtered blurred night out are you even a real person? Then you fall into that Internet rabbit hole and end up comparing your life to that of your ex-girlfriend’s-sister’s-best-friend and wondering why you don’t have a nutribullet?…
What’s the fucking point?
Remember that holiday you took as a child? Remember the sand in your shoes, the cool box full of home made sandwiches that were always warm by lunch time? Remember the arcade games and sea gull stealing your ice cream? Course you do. You don’t have photos of those things, you have feelings, memories, smells, sounds. I guess what I’m saying is – take photos but don’t let the screen in front of you inhibit the moment. Life won’t end if you don’t prove that you did something by taking a photo of it. That’s what I’m trying to do in India, less photos, more memories. So back to the smell of incense and the sunset….