Downsides of a Snap Happy Culture

Photographs were once precious pieces of history, curated so lovingly and with such reverence, documenting milestones of people’s lives. Today, we endure a cascade of photographs from multiple shots of someone’s daily brunch to an endless stream from the photo shoot someone else had in front of their bathroom mirror.

Before I’m accused of being a twenty-something grandma, whining about these kids and their new-fangled communication systems, let it be known that I am all for people doing whatever they like with their time, it is their own business and not mine to judge. However, the unsavoury results of this ‘snap-happy’ culture does present disadvantages in the fact that it may actually degrade your experiences and the ways in which corporations are profiting from this culture.

The Photo-Taking Impairment Effect

When on holiday or at a concert, it is unsurprising to see people with their phones out, eagerly photographing every moment. If questioned, they may remark that it is a means of preserving their memories, of remembering momentous occasions, so that one day they can look back at these pictures and relive it in all its glory. These people may be sadly mistaken.

Source: ARTnews

A study done by psychologist Linda Herkel suggests that taking photos makes it difficult to commit the actual details of an event to memory, to savour later on because people rely on technology to remember for them. This “photo-taking impairment effect” will not come as a surprise to many of us; the effort spent in capturing the perfect photo could be focused elsewhere like experiencing the moment in the fullest to capture it in memory thus removing the need for vast amounts of documentation.

Even knowing this, one might find it hard to resist the urge to snap away. Sliding ones phone out to capture a minute aspect of day to day life to share with the world has become almost second nature to us. While most of the times these posts are driven by vanity sometimes it is done with the best of intentions; “I enjoyed this and I think you will too, have a look”. Taking a few photographs too isn’t that bad, it is excessive photographing that one needs to be mindful of. After all, are they really brilliant memories if you viewed them from behind a screen?

The Rise of Instagram Events

Corporations are well aware of our new-found love for excessive photographing and have started to do what they do best; profiting from millennial’s new interests. One will remember the massive Fyre Festival disaster that many Americans were lured into through Instagram. In Malaysia itself, whole events have cropped out solely for the purposes of setting up booths for people to take pictures and then leave. These events are incredibly misleading as they paint a picture of an activity filled outing only to have people find out the sole purpose of attending is to take a picture in front of a colourful background.

Reading the above tweet, you might find slightly worrying dystopian-like characteristics in the idea of people corralled from one exhibit to another, clicking away at an electronic device as soon as a timer starts running. Someone could turn that into an episode of Black Mirror!

I too have attended an Instagram fuelled event, though not one so obviously worrying. It was advertised as a hot air balloon showcase. People would pay an entrance fee, walk across a muddy field, take a picture and then leave. Here’s the catch; there were only 3 hot air balloons there. 3 hot air balloons does not a showcase make. Yet the event seemed like a great success by the number of photograph hits went up showing people grinning in front of hot air balloons.

At this point, you might think people gullible for falling for obvious Instagram-fuelled traps but this may be a tad harsh. In this day and age, a lot of recommendations and reviews for events are found through the social media of our friends and other personalities. On Instagram, everything is polished and spotless so people are less likely to admit or even point out the flaws in an event. Instead they uphold the charade that they had a great time with unflinching smiles, and unfortunately pulling other people into this trap.

While all of this seems verging on the absolute bounds of pessimism, there is one more point to be made in defence of Instagram. There are several people on Instagram and other social networks that take pictures for their love of photography. They see it as an art form, to capture a story and share the beauty or the devastation of a situation through a single shot. Perhaps we can learn the value of an image from one of them. Instead of snapping away erratically, we could take a page out of their book and take the picture when the moment is right, when it is important and most of all, when it matters.

As the saying goes “Never before has a generation so diligently documented themselves accomplishing so little” so enjoy life before reliving it on a screen!

Written by Zahra Nashath

Featured image from Huffington Post

Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGNITE. 

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, in Animal Farm, 1945)

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