Picture this: I’m at a family gathering. People who have not seen each other in months are telling each other what’s new, the smell of masala and jeera fill the room, my cousin and I go back and forth sending each other links related to the things we’re talking about, I open my camera app to take a picture, and that aunty raises her brow and opens her mouth. “That’s the problem with you kids these days. All you’re worried about is that phone of yours. Why don’t you actually talk when you’re right in front of each other?”
“Yes, aunty” was the only thing we could say (to her face) in the interest of not being disrespectful.
Taking that picture took about 5 seconds, a fraction of the 2 hours we spent “actually talking.” And, like I said, whatever other time we spent on our phones was directly related to what we were talking about. Phones have become a scapegoat for older people expressing their unhappiness with the younger generation. In many of their eyes, our phones have come to represent disconnection and antisocial behavior. I’ve never been able to figure out what was the reason for this; do people genuinely feel as though things should be done the same way they were done 40 years ago or is it that older generations have some level of resentment towards millennials for having access to information and resources at our fingertips that they didn’t?
Don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s important to consider when to use our phones and when to put them away. I took a roadtrip with a few friends last summer and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Despite that being true, all five of us walked away from that trip with about two pictures total. Everyone was so caught up in the moment that we hardly took any pictures.
On the other hand, I have seen other people post every single thing that happened on their vacation, to the point where I feel like I was right there with them. In the case of my friends and I, we didn’t take pictures for anyone, we didn’t even take pictures for ourselves. That trip was for us and us alone; you just had to be there. I think the majority of people from older generations would commend me for enjoying my trip in that way but this wasn’t some act of protest, that was just what happened naturally. I don’t think I enjoyed my trip more than someone else who recorded theirs.
I’m sure everyone can guess how my aunt would feel about all this. There never seems to be any gray area, it always needs to be this or that. Things are complicated and messy; context matters. How many problems in the world would be solved if people didn’t make up their minds before taking the time to understand? I wish I could have opened a healthy dialogue about the topic with my aunt, but anything other than “yes, aunty” would have been seen as an attack. I think my aunt would be surprised about just how much we agree on, in terms of my personal version of living in the moment. I consider myself someone who uses their phone less than the average person, and that still doesn’t meet my aunt’s standards.
What I’m really talking about is what it means to be present. What does it take for you to feel present in the middle of an experience? If it’s collecting an archive of pictures and videos that you can look back on fondly in 20 years, then go ahead, be on your phone the whole time. If it’s getting satisfaction from the fact that you’re there at that very moment and no one will have ever lived through exactly what you’ve lived, then indulge in the exclusivity of that. The art of living in the moment depends on what you’re trying to get out of it, so navigate that moment however you see fit. Take your selfies or don’t. Do what works for you, and if you must judge people, do it silently like the rest of us.
Featured Image: People taking a selfie. Credit: Pxhere.