Stop taking pictures for the wrong reasons

Enjoy the moment and take a picture. Feel the moment and capture it. But is it how we take pictures nowadays?
Nov 23, 2017 | 4min read

In the summer of 2011, I traveled to Montreal to visit Dave, a very good friend of mine. Our cool English teacher, actually the coolest, from school lived there as well. And one day we decided to meet for a drink in a coffee shop. At some point, Dave started telling us stories about his recent Eurotrip he did after graduating from university. Great stories to hear until he mentioned he hadn’t taken A SINGLE PICTURE of the trip. I was shocked to my core. I had to stop him. He had just committed a crime! What do you mean you haven’t taken any pictures? I definitely don’t remember his answer.

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Dave rocking it at his own wedding. Cali, Colombia – August 2017

Pictures or it never happened

He traveled all across Europe for two weeks but didn’t take one single picture. Ok, he took 5, 10 maximum. But he wrote on a daily basis about his experiences, journeys and so on. He could describe every situation he was in as if we were there with him. Check it out if you’re curious https://david.achkar.com/eurotrip/. The teacher and I were shocked how he hadn’t taken any pictures. As we say pictures or it never happened. All I remember from this conversation was me telling him afterward: “you have to capture the moment”. And it’s so easy to do so! And click, I had taken a picture to prove it while continuing the conversation. I had my iPhone 4 back then and it was the beginning of the smartphone’s trend. I still have this picture somewhere on my external hard drive that is in the basement of my friend’s house in Paris. Capture the moment. Isn’t it obvious? Not for everyone. And 6 years later, can you imagine yourself or anyone around you, except your grandparents, not taking a picture of something or someone? At a party? During a trip? In a museum? At lunch? The answer is a BIG NO. And that’s great. Even though some of us have an outstanding visual memory, most of us need to take pictures. And technology is helping us a lot here. It is. But it’s also harming us a lot.

Rather skipping the moment

Because we forgot what does capturing the moment means. Actually, it became so easy to take pictures with our devices that we lost the charm of capturing the moment. I also did. Haven’t you ever been in a situation where you take a picture on the move? You know what I mean? You’re walking. You don’t want to stop. You notice a picture moment. You take out your phone or camera that is so good now they can focus on the object while you’re moving and click your picture is taken. I don’t call this capturing the moment. Rather skipping the moment. It is. I have more than 2000 pictures from my last one month trip in Colombia. That’s great because now I can choose and make a selection of the best ones. But at the same time, I’m sure I was skipping some moments and going too fast, instead of posing, relaxing and being present in the moment.

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Take the time you need to get the perfect shot. Lisbon, Portugal – November 2017

Why are you so in a hurry to share your pictures?

The second reason why it’s hurting us is social media. I’m wondering why some people take pictures. For them or for social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)? Technology and social media made it so easy to share pictures publicly or privately with each other. Why are you so in a hurry to share your pictures? Don’t you want them to be yours for a while? For example, I have a group on WhatsApp with my family, and they kept asking pictures while I was away. When you’re blown away by all the beauty of your trip, choosing later only a couple of pictures, without even explaining the context of the picture, is pretty hard. I have finally sent some, but admit I was a bit annoyed. I was completely immersed in my trip and somehow this group was calling me back to reality. My mother used to travel a lot, and as you can imagine, back then they didn’t have the technology we have today. So all her pictures are on slides that you need to project on a screen. She used to tell us stories picture after picture. And still, ask my brother and me to do the same after each trip we make. We don’t always find the time to do so but I can guarantee it’s the best way to share your travel. Yes, every picture tells a story. But only the photographer can find the right words to make the story special.

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Breathe, be present and enjoy the nature. Rila Mountains, Bulgaria – June 2017

Capture the moment. Yes. Take pictures. Please, do. But then wait. Breathe. Enjoy the moment. Forget about the pictures. And only then, post and share it. Because the worst when you do share it immediately you unconsciously become distracted and expect a reply, a comment, a like. If you’re a social media freak, try at least to wait until the end of the day, when you’re ready to go to bed for example. What a better way to remember the awesome day you had? You’re at a party, drunk, wait for the next day as it will be the only way to remember what happened after your blackout. Yup, happened to me once. Guilty as charged. You’re traveling, take this opportunity to disconnect and share the pictures when you’re back home from your holidays.

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My latest selfie. Madrid, Spain – November 2017

Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy taking pictures. I still do. Yes, I even take selfies (NOT with a selfie stick and will never do). But we have to decide how to use our devices and not the other way around. So don’t be fooled by technology. Use it as it has a lot to give but control it as you would like, not as social media, aka the e-society, wants you to!

 

For how long will technology control our lives?

The average person checks their phone 150 times a day.
Feb 8, 2017 | 5min read

Tristan Harris was a Product Philosopher at Google until 2016 where he studied how technology affects a billion people’s attention. He was also part of Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab. So did the founder of Instagram and many designers at Facebook. B J Fogg, the founder of this lab invented in 1990 captology. His main goal is to create insight into how computing products, from websites to mobile phone software, can be designed to change what people believe and what they do. Another former student of this lab, Nir Eyal, says

“Innovators create products designed to persuade people to do what we want them to do. We call these people “users” and even if we don’t say it out loud, we secretly dream of seeing  them all to the last, completely hooked to what we create.”

It’s like opening Pandora’s box

Millions of hours are stolen from people’s life because of this persuasive technology. Tristan Harris says

“the average person checks their phone 150 times a day.”

Are they conscious choices? I don’t think so. Why do we do this? Simple. Because our phone has the answer to all our questions.

  1. You’re lost on the street. You check google maps or city mapper to find your way.
  2. You’re looking for an address. You open your browser and google it.
  3. You want to text your friend. You open iMessage, WhatsApp, Viber or Messenger.
  4. You’re expecting an important email. You open your emails every now and then.
  5. You need to plan a weekend in one month or a meet up with a friend. You check your agenda.
  6. You use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (oh my…) and Twitter.
  7. You need to set your alarm clock because buying an alarm clock is so old school (relax, I (still) don’t have one).
  8. You check the weather to know the temperature. But people tend to forget it’s not a thermometer but the weather forecast.
  9. You play some games.
  10. You listen to music, watch some youtube video, etc.

And of course, some of the reasons I described above are good ones. You need to get information from your product. But here’s where it gets tricky because once you unlocked your phone, it’s like opening Pandora’s box. For a minute, you were googling an address, and the next thing you know you’re scrolling down on your Facebook news feed, replying to a comment or texting back your mum. And I haven’t even considered all the notifications you receive on your lock screen (news, social media, messages, etc.) that you can see by easily swiping right to get in the app, and well, get stuck. Now let’s say you repeat those actions during the day. How many times? Some actions are rare, some are often, some are frequent. But would you agree to say 50 is a correct and fair number (so an average of 5 times per action)? It’s not so bad considering the usefulness of some actions. So you checked your phone 50 times during the day. So what about the 100 other times ?! I repeat, what are you doing the 100 other times! Let’s go through simple math. 150 times a day of 15h (considering you sleep 9 hours), means 10 times every 1h.

It means 1 time every 6min.

That’s how we’re sucked deep down in the system. Don’t get me wrong, though, those technological innovations are important and a big part of the social media and the digital revolution. New technologies always reshaped society. The same newspaper, television, etc. did. Yet, the only problem with these new innovations is to constantly interrupt you. As if by default the product and/or applications you are using have one goal, interrupting you. Then we wonder why our generation has more concentration and memories troubles.

According to Tristan Harris it takes

“23min to refocus after an interruption.”

But again any information, any data, any product used in a wrong way will harm its user. The worst part here is it’s harming us unconsciously. Some would say it’s the tool. Some would say it’s the user. It’s both! We need smarter technology and users. According to IDC Research about a billion people wake up every morning, and one of the first things they do is checking their phones. I’m sure you do it. I used to do it. And it turns out people don’t feel so good about it. Does it mean we want a world with 1 billion lousy mornings every single day?

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.” — Unknown.

Take control of our phones back

Tristan Harris was helping Google designing phones to make us lose more time. He has now quit Google and is investing his time in Design for Time Well Spent. A movement to align technology with our humanity. You could tell me, disable all your notifications, or do not use a smartphone. This is where I would say you’re wrong. Innovations are part of us, of our society and our future. But it’s not a reason to accept it as it is. We need to fight this revolution until we get better products. In the meantime, we have to take control of our phones back. What I did, for a start, is disabling my wifi and internet data before going to bed. When I wake up in the morning I’m not harassed by notifications on my lock screen (news, messages, etc.). You could also put your phone in airplane mode. I don’t. In case of emergency, I’d like to be reachable. During the day, my iPhone is on “Do Not Disturb” mode. You know this moon that appears in the status bar? All calls, messages, notifications I received when my phone is locked are silenced. This is peace, thus better productivity. The only calls that are not silenced are the ones from my favourites list and repeated calls from the same person within three minutes. Oh, and if you can, do not hesitate to put your phone away from your sight. I have also organised all my applications into one page, with categories titles explaining why I would open this application. For example, “contact” for Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. “Go” for Google Maps, Uber, Momondo, etc. “Read” for the news. Do you get the idea? This triggers me of doing more conscious choices before opening any application. You could also use Moment to track your phone usage. I’m not a big fan of this because once you have downloaded it, you start thinking of your phone usage and try to decrease the frequency on purpose. But, isn’t this what we’re trying to achieve here?

We need to take a look at how we’re structuring our future

In the Attention Economy, technology and media are designed to maximize our screen-time. But what if they were designed to help us live by our values?

What if news and media companies were creating content that enriched our lives, vs. catering to our most base instincts for clicks?

What if social platforms were designed to help us create our ideal social lives, instead of to maximize time-on site and “likes”?

What if dating apps measured their success in how well they helped us find what we’re looking for instead of in number of swipes?

As technology gets more and more engaging, and as Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality become more and more prevalent in our day-to-day lives we need to take a look at how we’re structuring our future.

Dear reader, those wise words are an introduction to this beautiful poetic short film by  Max Stossel and Sander van DjikThis Panda Is Dancing . Take some time to think about it. Seriously.