Living Through Your Phone

I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling this summer. So far I’ve been able to visit the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Arches, Zion, Yosemite, Devil’s Post Pile, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and a number of quaint and interesting towns in between. Each destination had something astounding or impressive to offer, whether it was the staggering view of Half Dome and El Capitan at Yosemite National Park, or the seemingly man-made basaltic columns at Devil’s Post Pile National Monument.

While each area was unique, they all were beautiful. But they shared something else in common as well. Tons of people snapping pictures and going home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as quick to take a picture of something beautiful or incredible as the next person, and the view from the top of Angels Landing in Zion National Park is certainly both. What was strange was the number of people who would spend 3 hours walking to a destination, spend 10 minutes taking the perfect picture, and walk three hours back to their cars.

Now, maybe these people had been to these places millions of times before, or they were in a rush to get back home, or they were born in the Garden of Eden so no view seems especially special. Whatever their reasons, the picture on their phone seemed like the primary objective. There were a handful of people at each stop that seemed to relish the view, but they were the minority.

A group of people had sauntered up to the top of Yosemite Falls, taken a selfie, and then headed back down to the parking lot, when a guy said to me, “It’s on Instagram, it’s over now.”

The comment was certainly snide, but possibly true. It’s conceivable that the group cherished their 10 minute experience at the top of the falls just as much as the guy who had been up there for an hour, but it did not seem that way. It seemed as though the group had labored for the picture on their phone, hardly taking in the view or caring about their experience at all.

Some people make the argument that staring at your phone keeps you from truly appreciating or even engaging in real life experiences. Making your way up a mountain just to share your view on Instagram or talk about it on Facebook diminishes the endeavor. If you’re more concerned about getting the perfect angle, a witty caption, or what hashtags to use, you’re going to miss out on what’s going on around you.

Humans have senses, and those senses enhance our experiences. Being on a mountaintop isn’t the same as viewing a mountain on your laptop. Looking at a picture of a mountain uses only one sense, where as being on top of a mountain incorporates all five (or more…).

Others make the argument that the Internet is just as much a part of our lives as anything else. The Internet is as real as stones, clouds, and stars, and being on your phone allows you to stay connected and communicate with others, contributing to your real life experiences. Posting to your Instagram or Facebook lets your friends and family keep up with your adventures, and having documentation of your trips will allow you to look back on them further on down the road.

What the argument really boils down to is the stance of traditionalists vs. technophiles.

People place value in, or have different levels of appreciation for, different things. You may love music so much that you don’t even think of taking a picture at a concert because you’re captivated by the sound. You may love the outdoors so much that you choose to stare at the mountains and the sky for hours at a time. You may love social media so much that you want to share everything that you do with everyone you know at all times of the day.

Some people choose to embrace the level of connectivity that we currently have. If you want to email your boss, text your mom, check stocks, and watch sports highlights all on your phone, go for it. But you should lift your head up every once in a while. It’s important to live, and actually cherish those incredible moments. If your memory of a hike is walking four miles to a photo opportunity, snapping a picture, and then going home, how valuable is that experience?


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