We Are Not All Journalists
Social media is work. So how about taking a day off?
I was at a convenience store the other night, and watched some kids come in who had just escaped from a party they didn’t really like. As soon as they were inside, though, they pulled out their phones and started watching social media reports from the kids who had stayed.
It wasn’t these kids’ FOMO that got my attention. I really don’t think they wanted to be back there at the party, anyway. If anything, they were looking at the photos to remind themselves they weren’t missing anything at all.
Indeed, the revelers dutifully posed with whatever they were drinking or whoever they were flirting with. They found the best angles to photograph the kid throwing up in a trashcan, as well as the best headlines for the image. Someone was chronicling the goings-on in text on WhatsApp, and someone was apparently live-streaming confessional interviews with kids too stoned to realize what they were sharing.
What struck me most was how much work everyone was doing. That’s likely a good part of why the party was so bad. Nobody was there in the room. What they were doing only mattered to them insofar as they could capture it. It was like a wedding where everyone was a wedding photographer, but no one was a guest. No one knew how to party for its own sake.
It reminded me of some neighbors of ours when I was growing up. The Gersh family. They’d take all these big trips to Europe, and then when they got back they’d make all the neighbors come over and watch a Kodak Carousel slideshow of all the photos they took of themselves at the Eiffel Tower or Machu Picchu. Narrating over the sound of the projector fan, as if their photos were interesting to us. (Don’t tell them, please. The onion dip was good and Mrs. Gersh was generous with the chips.)
But all I could think of as I sat through the endless travelogue was how the Gersh’s never really took a vacation. They traveled as if they were working photojournalists, more intent on capturing each moment than experiencing it — probably imagining how each photo they took would look on the projected screen at home. And then recalling what little they did experience on their trip through their photos rather than their sense memory.