I can feel the pull every time an opportunity arises. It locks me down, whispers to me, speaking directly to the pleasure center of my brain while I try to bypass the urge—I need to take a picture of this.
Fumbling in the pocket of my jeans for my phone, swiping through my applications, finding a place with the best light source, placing a filter on to make it doubly appealing—all these things have averted my attention away from what’s really going on right in front of me.
Once the picture is up, whether it be on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, another distracting process ensues: Who is going to “like” it?
After a few minutes my neurosis kicks in, and I start to ask myself why nobody seems to take notice of what was just posted. Is the picture not as appealing as I initially thought? I should have angled it differently!
Right as I begin to ponder deleting my picture, my phone lights up with the first notification, and a surge of relief moves through my body. Somebody has taken note of what I put out there, and what’s more, they like what they see.
Soon enough, my iPhone is lighting up every few minutes, and the picture with 42 likes is filed into my mental folder as a success. On to the next one.
Pictures, clearly, have evolved into more than something you keep around to trigger stowed away memories, or to see how one has changed in appearance over the years. They have taken on a new purpose; one of approval.
People need to be validated through their photos. We need to be told, directly through comments or indirectly through “likes” or “favorites,” that our families are beautiful, our bodies are attractive or our lives are headed in the right direction.
Personal photos, put simply, have moved increasingly out of the realm of “private” (your mother’s photo album) and into the realm of “public” (social media sites). Taken alone, this is not a bad thing—but when one accounts for how much self-esteem can be dictated by other people, it becomes a tad more insidious.
Are we impressed with ourselves for taking a good photo, or impressed because other people tell us we should be? This is a question I find myself wrestling with more and more lately.
Some, particularly those mentally strong people, may not struggle with this pattern of self-defeat. Yet, for individuals who need to see they’re loved and appreciated, posting photos is exactly the kind of reassurance tool our brains were built for.
There are, of course, many arguments already made in favor of incessant photo-taking, as there are for any kind of practice commonplace in our society. All I’m saying is be careful; ask if something really needs to be shared, or if doing things on one’s own terms—without any outside recognition— can be equally fulfilling.
Before I decide to share my next photo, these are the ideas I will be mulling over. Sometimes things should just be. firstname.lastname@example.org