What’s Wrong With Our Screen-Addicted Culture? When Mom’s Facebook Snapping Kills Son’s Love for Photography

Maybe the wrong place to post this, but it’s a bit of a headache. We have the most beautiful camera gear lying around. Some years ago, before our son turned teenager, he was excited about cameras and took great pictures. His way to frame and choose subjects/objects was as unusual as intuitive. Add his passion for everything IT. Right, he loves to post-process. But since my wife — world’s best wife — puts everything that happens in her life on Facebook, despite son’s and father’s unreserved reservations, Noah sees himself much more often on Facebook than he’s comfortable with. In return, he simply no more interested in photography.

For his mom things seem to only be real if there’s photographic proof of it, best shared with the whole world. You can’t tell a Facebook addict to slow down, can you, even though one wonders what friends those must be who like snaps of half eaten food and seeing the same smiles again and again. My wife takes great snaps of great food, and I really love her smile and her friends. She also doesn’t seem to classify as a victim of the Internet’s narcissism epidemic. She just loves to share — at the cost of Noah’s love for photography.

Reality is: with her absolute urge to share my wife’s not alone. When conjuring up the perfect road trip — windows down, sun shining, hair blowing in the breeze — chances are, you don’t picture yourself clutching your smartphone the entire time. But that’s exactly what happens most of the time. Life has become unthinkable without ever-present smartphones and cameras to document the even most insignificant bits of one’s life.

Blue magic pill...
The magic little blue pill…
Which unintentionally paints a sobering portrait of a life distracted, one in which we’re connected to our devices but disconnected from the people and experiences right in front of us.

There’s a tremendous gap between showing off a seemingly idyllic life and leading an idyllic life. Should we better be warned about the consequences of our all-too-real (and often unhealthy) dependence on technology? Which can even lead to withdrawal symptoms, such a loneliness or the feeling of missing out, as a form of new social anxiety — a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction.

As long as we’re happily snapping it’s easy to ignore each other in favor of talking into our phones and upload the latest and greatest from our life. Yet, those ever-present LCD screens point to some disturbing truths about the way screens are altering our experiences and interactions with others.

Unfortunately, many of us do spend our vacations staring at phone screens rather than enjoying the unfiltered view of what’s around us. And at a time when one survey shows nearly seven in 10 people are afraid to lose or be separated from their smartphones and the average mobile user checks their device every six and a half minutes (adding up to 150 times a day), What most of us need is a vacation from our devices, not with them.

Even on vacation, most of us continue to check work and private emails… This also hints at one particularly troubling toll that gadgets are taking on our relationships:

Technology has been shown to reduce eye contact in social interactions, which can result in decreased emotional connection. Overall there’s less human interaction. We photographers have a lesson to learn from this. Many of us interrupt every shoot to check the latest image on the LCD. This very automatism distances ourselves from what’s going on around us. There’s no flow, no interaction with the subject/object.

As photographers, using increasingly sophisticated hyper-functional convergence devices with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and so forth, are we losing focus?

Those LCDs seem to have hypnotic power. How to break our tech addiction and regain balance in our life to not become like cornered animals with our eyes darting from device to human and back to device?

As for my son and his former enthusiasm for photography, he was and is exposed to a snappies and selfies overkill that makes it difficult to ethuse him again with photography.

Maybe the very generation that’s supposed to thrive on social media will start rejecting this ceaseless connectivity. Maybe they want to have real friends again and enjoy the presence of real people with real experiences.

Maybe they want to switch off this digital virtual world that barricades ourselves into own little disconnected worlds.

They’re never alone. Yet lonely.

Not easy, to switch off.

(inspired by Huffington Post)

  • Wolfgang Lonien

    Good one, Daniel.

  • Robert Mark

    I’m glad you posted this. (And if you’re really writing about your own wife, I’d send tonight’s dinner to a test lab before I ate it.)

    Personally, we have a no personal sharing on Facebook policy in our home. I know that many, including your wife, seem to think its a great idea to share what they ate for breakfast with us, but the cold truth is the rest of us really don’t care. It makes me want to click the button in Facebook that lets me see fewer posts from that Friend.

    There’s a reason why Life magazine and National Geographic are so compelling. They employ photo editors. We don’t see every picture that gets snapped — we just see the five star shots.

    I also espouse a policy of humility on all social media. No “selfies” under any circumstance, If someone else makes an image of me, it will capture far more emotion and do a better job telling a story than any snap I can make of myself at arms length.

  • No worries, my wife doesn’t read THEME… Within her circle of FB friends they all seem to enjoy it. So I stopped rebelling against snaps, for the sake of peace of mind. Also, privacy settings are on. Again, she’s the best wife in the whole wide world. Just funny, or scary really, how photography can mean such completely different things to people who’re a match.

  • Bengt Nyman

    Don’t worry about your son. People spend the first half of their lives trying to get away from their roots, and the rest of their lives trying to get them back.

  • Haha, definitely entered my second half…

  • Andrey Volkovets

    Great observations. Thank you!

  • Scarlet_Billows

    Excellent article. Very interesting statistics.

    I’m not on Facebook and never will be. Plus I shoot film. So I am happily disconnected all the time. And my wife is even more of a luddite in these respects than I.