The best life lessons come from the most unexpected places.
I recently gave back the company phone I had been using that featured a killer camera (Galaxy 7). It wasn’t until I parted ways with the handheld
intellectual parasite device that I realized I had, at one point in the last year, gone on a house de-cluttering frenzy and tossed out every old phone or camera that I previously owned, with the exception of the pain in the ass GoPro hero 3. It’s actually not the GoPro’s fault, so much as the editing software that slows my laptop down to the speed of molasses, but I digress with my first world problems.
(At this point you may be thinking “gee, Heather isn’t really up to speed with technology” and you would be absolutely correct in those assumptions.)
When I started blogging in 2009, written word was the focus, with an occasional picture thrown in for demonstrative purposes. At some point on my blogging journey, iPhones and Instagram became a thing, and suddenly everyone was documenting even the most mundane moments of their daily lives with increasingly higher resolution photos. As bloggers (now commonly referred to as “influencers”) we were constantly reminded that visual digital content was becoming exceedingly important, and we better hop on the Instagram and Nikon bandwagon, or be left in the blogspot.com dust.
I don’t mean to say any of this to be condescending; as a reader I too can spend hours oogling at mountain and trail snapshots edited with the perfect touch of “Juno” filter. And it’s obvious I’m not alone; seemingly average joes, back of the pack athletes, and stay at home moms have become “Instagram celebrities”, posting visual glimpses into their daily life for hundreds of thousands of followers, most of which are complete strangers, to see. I actually think it’s a pretty cool phenomenon.
But I’ve never been very good at it.
Not wanting to get left behind, I upped my visual game as best I could. Eventually I found if a blog post took twenty minutes to write, I spend another few hours editing photos before I could hit “publish”. This is not my forte, but nevertheless became a requirement in order to keep up. Written word was a secondary concern. I often found myself doubting if people even bothered to read the series of letters, spaces, and punctuation placed between the pictures.
As such, my outlook on social media changed over time. Everything in life became a potential Instagram shot, an opportunity for a casual product placement and hashtag drop. It didn’t matter if I was on a run, in the grocery store, or at my kids elementary school. Group pictures, selfies, unboxings…if it wasn’t on social media, did it even really happen? Once again, I do not mean to come across as if this was necessarily a bad thing. Somehow stumbling upon the blogging/influencer game at the right time completely changed my life, and afforded me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. And all of this was just a part of the game.
But I share all of this as a preface, to give a little background when I tell you that suddenly NOT having a high speed camera and editing software in my pocket has been an eye-opening experience.
Last weekend I ran 56 miles through the South Carolina swamps and forests. While the course itself was brutal, it was also breathtakingly gorgeous in parts. Because I was running with a cell phone that has a laughable camera (my 9 year old could draw better pictures than what this thing produces), I didn’t even bother taking it out of my hydration pack.
For FIFTEEN HOURS.
As an “influencer” and social media guru, not touching a cell phone for 15 hours is near blasphemous. I wonder how many in our society even have the self discipline to go 15 hours without touching their phone. At one point later in the afternoon, my friend Mikie and I were running through a field surrounded by shoulder high brush. The leaves among the brush were the most beautiful shades of red, orange, and maroon. You could almost SEE the warmth of the setting sun as it’s rays glimmered through what leaves were left on the autumn trees. It was a goddamn real-life Instagram filter. And my immediate, all consuming, gut reaction was “I can’t believe I can’t take a picture of this”. It’s actually embarrassing to admit how overwhelming the feeling was.
That unexpected reaction felt like a slap in the face. I wondered to myself what has become of me, of my generation, if we cannot stop to simply appreciate the beauty in a moment in time without needing photographic evidence that the moment actually existed? Hell, to what extent can we truly appreciate anything at all if the main concern is lining up the perfect shot? I thought back to the days when the number of pictures taken were dependent upon Kodak film and flash cubes, and not number of available gigabytes. When cameras were reserved for special occasions and family vacations, and weren’t easily concealed in your pocket to take pictures of every last meal eaten or mile run.
I took a deep breathe and reset my focus. I looked around at the stunning views and tried to truly take it in, breathe it in, experience it. To actually “be” in the moment, and not spend my time worrying about preserving the moment for later. I won’t lie…it wasn’t easy. But as the days have passed, I’ve slowly found myself caring less about Instagram followers and “Facebook or it didn’t happen” photos, and instead trying to be present and aware…simply for the sake of being present and aware. And do you know what?
It’s been pretty awesome.
It won’t be forever, let’s not kid ourselves. Once a blogger, always a blogger. I’m also not one to lecture others on the importance of “unplugging”. But for me, for the time being, I find myself grateful for the opportunity to just “be”.
My current life isn’t on Instagram. But I assure you it’s really happening… and better than ever.