Ontario’s Central CountiesI am sitting with my friend on a trailer pulled by a red tractor. The hayride is a popular attraction at the apple orchard, and this is a gorgeous fall day, all sky blues and red leaves and golden sunshine. A group of girls clamor on board the trailer, sitting on the bale of hay across from me and my friend.
One of the girls wearing black leggings and big sunglasses whips out her iPhone.
“Can you take our picture?” she asks me, holding out her phone. Her friends start fluffing their hair, straightening their shirts.
“Sure,” I reply. The tractor hitches forward, and we start the orchard tour. Trees and sky move behind the college girls as they lean in to each other, hugging. Say cheese. Snap. “Here you go,” I say. We’re by the pumpkin patch now.
“Thanks!” Leggings replies, looking down at her phone as the tractor turns. The girls gather around the screen. “Let me see!” one says. “Ugh, is my hair really sticking up like that?” another replies. “Send it to me anyway.”
“Oh, I’ll post it,” Leggings answers. A phone rings.
I turn towards my friend. “Let’s have them take our picture,” I whisper. She nods. The tractor drives on. We are by the corn maze now, but I’m distracted, digging in my purse.
I find my phone and tentatively hand it forward. “Do you mind taking one of us?” I ask Leggings. The tractor is going straight towards the apple orchard now. Scents of leaves and autumn are in the air.
“Sure!” Leggings holds up the phone, I lean in to my friend, and we smile. When she hands me my phone, I start editing the picture, choosing a photo filter that will make the colors stand out before I post the picture to my Facebook page.
Our tractor lurches forward, now near the cider mill area. I decide on a Sepia tone for the photo.
“Angela, look!” a girl to the right of me says.
“Hold on, I’m posting our picture,” Angela (formally known as Leggings) says with her head down, fingers poised over the phone keys. The friend hits Angela’s leg playfully.
“You’re missing this great photo opportunity right now. Take a picture of this.”
“Okay,” Angela-Leggings looks up. Snap, snap, snap. Head goes back down towards the phone.
I see the girls on their phones, my own eyes locked on the edit button of my screen. Suddenly, it hits me.
I am missing this. And so are these girls. We are missing this.
I’m missing the view of hundreds of apple trees. I’m oblivious to the wind in my hair, the smell of apples and my boyfriend, a mix of soap and Old Spice, as he moves next to me. Instead, I am in social media land, checking how many people Liked my Sepia tone picture.
I don’t want to do this anymore, I think.
I don’t want to feel the pressure to post pictures of sunsets and statuses boasting how much fun I had or the deal I got or the meal I made. I’m done measuring my worth by Facebook Likes and Twitter Retweets. I’m tired of comparing my life to others and trying to prove through social media that my life is fun.
But we’ve become a society that can be strategic in how we present ourselves. Whether we are aware of it or not, we can use every photo, comment, and status to showcase our lives. We have become our own public relations reps, each creating a social media campaign titled, “My Life is Awesome.” This can create a breeding ground for comparison and insecurity. We buy our worth by using social media to create our very own Life Highlight Reel.
And what a colorful Life Highlight Reel we can create.
Before the days of digital cameras and smart phones, we had disposable cameras with 27 exposures—only 27 chances to capture moments, so we were conservative. Nowadays, we’ve said goodbye to silly film limitations, so we take pictures of everything: the artistic-looking ceiling fan. Last night’s dessert. A sleeping cat. Yes, this allows us to be creative, to share, to engage, but it also removes us from our own life. An experience is now an opportunity to add to the Life Highlight Reel. And so, life becomes half-lived as we focus on capturing the moment instead of living in it.
So I challenge us all to put down the phone sometimes. We must become active participants in our own lives. Otherwise, we will have captured the moments, but not the memories.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Watch the sun set. Listen to the concert.
Take in the apple orchard.
Image Source: http://centralcounties.ca/apple-season-in-central-counties/
Adapted from Smart Girls