Beyond the Lens

With technology’s boom in the twenty-first century encouraging the public to become users of social networks and owners of cellular devices, people have become accustom to living in a society where everything is instantaneous.

The most captivating technological development that came to be, since the Internet, is the invention of a camera being incorporated into our mobile devices. Although minuscule in size in comparison to other advances, such as 50” flat screens and touch screen laptops, this innovation has altered the way people engage publicly online. Camera phones provide users with the opportunity to capture and retain moments in time. A strongly opinionated columnist from The Guardian Stuart Jeffries notes the rise of the camera-phone has transformed people into “…snappers on autopilot, and slaves to our machines, clogging up cyberspace with billions of images.” He emphasizes that cell phones have taken charge of people’s lives and robbed them from their ability to fully engross themselves in the present.


A smartphone user (source: Pixabay)

Editor of PhoneDog Anna Scatlin shares how the introduction of Apple’s FaceTime as well as other applications, like Skype, has prompted cell phone companies to integrate a second camera onto the inside of a cell phone. As a result of this installment, more people are seen taking photos of themselves than ever before. University of California college writing lecturer Michael Larkin’s Culture Mulching post depicts how the term “selfie” has exponentially grown over the past year. Although the want for attention is a natural feeling that arises in all human beings, the urge to document every significant event in their lives through photographs is only heightened through the use of social networks.

As of lately, photography has been a popular medium for self-expression. Many individuals find and use platforms on the Internet to display original work, either textual or visual, to public. During the Web 2.0 Summit in 2008, Mark Zuckerberg’s Law stated that the amount of information that is shared amongst people online will only double with every incoming year. This, in part, is a result of how easy it has become for individuals to take photos from their phones and upload them online. However, not all photo sharing is delightful.

As people scroll down their newsfeed, whether this is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social network, they are continuously exposing themselves to the ubiquity of social updates. Seeing the number of “likes” a photo receives only encourages people to continue to upload and share. In fact, if it was not for their “friends” on social media constantly updating and publicly boasting about themselves, there would be no nagging ache inside of people prompting them to compete and compare their lives with others. Livescience news editor Megan Gannon describes this urge as a result of a dangerous medium of social comparison. Gannon references a study conducted by Universitat Berlin psychology researcher Fenne große Deters, who found that “[undergraduates from the University of Arizona] with lots of Facebook friends had lower self-esteem, feeling worse about their place in life and their achievements if they’d just viewed their friend’s status updates, compared with people who hadn’t recently surfed the site.” Relying too heavily on others’ opinions only encourages people to continue updating their profiles. It is receiving this attention and the desire to be accepted that causes people to behave in this manner.

Although, on the surface, advances in technology aiming to improve the camera have been beneficial, at the same time, it has pulled us away from our original motive to capturing a moment; often causing us to miss the moment completely. As we continue to look down on our phones, we often miss out on what is going on right in front of their eyes. Through a short spoken word video that was written, performed, and directed by Gary Turkit, we are able to see what would happen if we take the time to shift our attention away from our phones and look up.


Actors Ben Stiller and Sean Penn (source: 20th Century Fox)

In the motion picture The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Walter (Ben Stiller) is bewildered to see Sean (Sean Penn) choosing not to take a picture:

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?                                                                                     Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.

Sometimes we don’t need to show the entire world what we are doing. We can just keep the moment to ourselves. Instead of pulling out our phones and shifting our focus to adjusting ourselves to seize the moment, we should be present within the moment.



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