People love to credit digital cameras for their ability to take incessant photos. Film never stopped me, though. I have bins and bins filled to the brim with photos and negatives. I captured every moment on film the same way most people now record them digitally. Digital just further enabled my budding photography addiction. My photography obsession is based entirely on its archival abilities. Every photograph is a documentary, cataloging every instant of my life both big and small.
I’ve become so consumed with photography that I have a tough time letting a moment pass with my family and friends without a camera in hand. I love looking through my pictures. I love that people are impressed when I get the perfect shot. The only problem is that when you spend that much effort trying to capture every moment on film (or a SIM card), you let those prized moments slip right past you.
Social Media shares the same quality. Every status update captures a feeling or an opinion about something we’re experiencing. It fascinates me that Facebook is like my very own time capsule. There are even apps to generate albums from your Facebook photos and status updates. This archival quality is the exact element that feeds my photography addiction. It’s an incredible record of experiences from the momentous to the mundane. Though, sometimes I wonder if my desire to connect online distracts me from connecting in person.
Last weekend I was forced to put this theory to the test. Saturday was my second wedding… to the same guy. Most people don’t get the opportunity to get married to the same person twice, but I highly recommend it! Thursday morning, amidst wedding planning chaos, my iPhone finally kicked the bucket. On one hand, I was thrilled to buy my new Android. On the other hand, with a house full of guests and a list of last minute errands, I had zero time to learn how it worked.
My cell phone is more like my home office than a phone. It’s within reach at any given moment. My husband even joked that I might interrupt the priest to quickly reply to an email during the ceremony. I was beyond familiar with my iPhone. Without thinking I could check my four email accounts, update my Facebook status and return a text or two. Being unacquainted with my new phone meant I was suddenly disconnected for the entire weekend – a first in a very long time. When it buzzed, I had no idea if it meant I had a text or an email, much less what the fastest way to check either was. I hadn’t set up my Facebook or Twitter apps yet, meaning I had to access my phone’s actual internet browser to check my profiles – much too time consuming for my liking.
As I drove around Saturday morning running last minute errands before the ceremony, I had to fight the urge to pull out my phone while driving and respond to emails or see what was happening on Facebook. (Some people would call that a traffic violation. I like to think of it as multi-tasking). With my new phone, I couldn’t jump to my emails without staring at the screen.
At one point, while sitting at a stoplight I managed to check Facebook and see a comment about my soon-to-be second wedding. Just like a photograph, friends’ comments marked the occasion – mostly with jokes about getting remarried to the same person after only 5 years. I was already anticipating how I would update my status throughout the day or post pictures of myself in my new BCBG dress. I compiled a mental list of the photos I planned to take throughout the day.
Then something significant happened. I came face-to-face with the realization that you can’t take photos of your own wedding. This was a big deal considering we hadn’t hired a photographer for Wedding #2 and I’m usually the one snapping away at family occasions. As I handed my SLR over, I considered all the times that I was so determined to preserve the moment, that I didn’t really appreciate being in the moment itself.
The funny thing about weddings is that they fly by in a split second and if you don’t savor every second it will just seem like a blur. Given that this wasn’t my first rodeo, I knew this all too well. As I stood on an altar and exchanged my vows for a second time, I decided to completely let go of all other thoughts and really let the moment sink in. Any concerns about status updates or work emails were overtaken by pure enjoyment. I let go of my cyber life and the desire to update anyone who wasn’t present. I let it sink in how moved I was that my husband of five years still had to fight back a tear or two when he saw me walk down the aisle. It was incredible!
I tried to keep that mentality as the reception got underway. All morning I had thought about the status updates and photos I would post online. Instead, every time I considered pulling out my phone, I opted to dance with my niece or catch up with relatives and friends that I hadn’t seen in some time. I basically avoided any interaction that was limited to 140 characters or less. It was an interesting phenomenon.
Occasionally, throughout the night I felt the urge to mention something, anything, about what was going on. Social Media and smart phones make it all too convenient to connect with people in real time. Sometimes it feels as though postponing a possible status update by an hour or, god forbid a day, will mean it’s no longer relevant. I finally had to resign myself to the fact that I would just have to rely on mental snapshots. It ended up being the best party I’d been to in a long time (and I’m not just saying that because I got to shove cake in my husband’s face).
Sunday morning, I woke up to the realization that we never got the group photo that I had planned on and I wasn’t even sure that my husband and I had taken a picture just the two of us the entire evening. Normally, that would kill me, but the whole day was so perfectly engrained in my memory that the photos were just icing on my delicious mango wedding cake.
I still haven’t posted anything about the ceremony on Facebook. Unless someone else uploaded their photos, you won’t find a picture of John and me sharing our first kiss as husband and wife… again. Obsessing over updating our status as events unfold and being tethered to our email and text feels like a great way to stay connected, but causes such a disconnect to the events unfolding around us and the people standing right in front of our faces. Now don’t get me wrong, the second the dust settles I plan to clock some serious get-to-know-you time with my new phone and a Facebook album with follow shortly thereafter. But this weekend served as a powerful reminder to stop and smell the roses every once in a while… not text about them, not take a picture of them, not comment on Facebook about them… Just enjoy them.