Whether you’re new here or you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I like taking photos. A lot. I’m not a professional photographer, nor is it something I aspire to do full time, but I love photos, I always have and I’m pretty sure I always will. I love the creativity in composition and the emotion that capturing a moment can evoke, minutes, days, months and even years after a shot is taken.
I’m a visual person. I prefer to consume information that is presented as an image – I watch the news rather than read it, I can stare at a painting for days while I skim printed copy and don’t ever ask me to make something from a recipe if you can’t show me a picture of what it should look like when I’m done.
Looking through old photos also brings me a lot of joy – I remember always making a beeline for the dog-eared old albums at my grandparents' house where I’d spend hours on the floor flicking through old captures, laughing at old memories and asking questions about people in my history. Now I have a decent camera of my own, I love taking photos for friends and capturing moments that I know they will treasure in the same way – whether it's newborns, engagements or birthday parties they are happy memories that are worth holding on to.
Yet with the explosion of Social Media, photos have been taking some serious flack recently. The idea that we’re under pressure to flaunt a happy version of ourselves at all times, and the introduction of an element of competition by tracking the likes and reactions for every piece of content we post…there’s a quote I like that says “comparison is the thief of all joy” and for a lot of people comparison is stealing joy from my old best friend, the photograph.
This week a post has done the rounds on Facebook which says:
Even though as I said I am a visual person, I obviously read the above post and I still don't understand it. Are we mourning the fact that people don't read anymore? Is it really a test and is someone collecting the data? Or is it just another popularity contest in disguise? And at the crux of the matter, is there a reason why we want to send words to war against pictures?
In the about section of this blog I committed to inspiring others – to encourage them to travel more, try new things and enjoy life. I do this by sharing journalistic accounts of the things I get up to accompanied by a ton of pictures. Self-indulgent? Maybe. But I can honestly say that it's all 100% genuine. There’s nothing hiding behind my stupidly cheesy grin other than pure happiness for the life I’ve chosen to live, surrounded by people I love. The pictures I post on Instagram reflect my current feelings and even those I post of family and friends who live far away and I miss desperately, make me smile because just knowing they’re part of my life makes my heart pound with joy. I don’t post to get more likes than my friend up the road or to show off, I post because something, a moment, has made me happy, and happiness is worth sharing! I know that when my Mum and best friend log on they’ll smile with me and if other people see my posts and I get a couple of likes, I hope that means that they’re happy for me, or I’ve inspired them to do something that makes them happy too.
My stunning friend Sophie, behind Lustic recently opened up about her health battle over the last 12 months and her pursuit of happiness at times when staying positive seemed like an insurmountable proposition. It would have been all too easy for her to hide her troubles away - mask them behind her incredible wedding photos and pretend that everything about newlywed life in paradise was hunky dory. Instead she realized that breaking the façade and being honest about her emotions would pave a far more effective road to recovery. She knows that life is like a photograph - you need the negatives to develop.
So is Social Media really to blame for our inability to let down our guard and talk about are struggles? Are we so absorbed in the competition that we’ve forgotten to live?
Perhaps. But I don’t think it’s too late to get back to basics and back to what Social Media should be about – connecting and sharing moments with friends.
Here’s the thing. Photos are fun. They’re inspiring, tell a story and capture a moment. For me, they’re the icing on the cake of an experience but too many people are using them to replace the flour.
What the hell am I talking about? Think of the cake as your life and the following steps as the recipe.
Doing more of what makes you happy and surrounding yourself with inspirational people makes up the metaphorical cake layers. Taking a time out to smile because there are positive things happening in your life is like the filling - the stuff that brings out the flavour. So now you can see how taking a photo and capturing a memory, is just the icing.
On the other hand, you can go out, take a photo of something that makes it look like you’re having the best day ever, share it and stare at your phone to see how many likes you get. A great way to procrastinate, sure, but will it make you happy? Probably not.
Because the recipe doesn't work in reverse. You can’t make a cake with just the icing - unless you’re using it to cover up a store-bought sponge to pass it off as homemade.... an attempt to fake it.
At the end of the day, happiness can't be faked and you can't use a photo to fake your happiness. The idea that you can? Now THAT is the curse of Social Media.