Tag: Smartphones

Still Life in Mobile Phones

The popularity of the “Selfie” a photograph that one takes of oneself, has become a social phenomenon and not just with the millennial generation. They have become our own personal form of self-expression, a visual capturing of our identity. Some of us even feel the urge to camouflage our faces with the help of Snapchat, Instagram or even Animoji characters. There are lots of other ways that we can dehumanize our features by using the latest smartphone technology and software. Our phones are a reflection of the human impulse to control and categorize ourselves, our emotions, that we can share with our friends and the world of social media. But when did it all begin?

Hippolyte Bayard invented the first photographic process and in 1840, he portrayed himself as a suicide victim in a photograph entitled Self Portrait as a Drowned Man. He is accredited as being the first photographer to take a self-portrait and the pioneer of that now obsessive self-dramatization art form referred to as conceptual photography – the art of creating photographs with the purpose of illustrating an idea, where the idea or concept, an abstract thought in the mind,  is the most important aspect of the work. Some conceptual photography is perhaps influenced or draws inspiration from Surrealist painters such as Salvador Dalí et al. Hippolyte Bayard, has more or less proved the point that the urge to turn the camera on ourselves, is as strong as it was in his day.

 

Hippolyte Bayard -Self Portrait as a Drowned Man on Pennzer
Hippolyte Bayard portrayed himself as a suicide victim in a photograph entitled Self Portrait as a Drowned Man.

You might think the “selfie” is a rather modern phenomenon. Not so. Robert Cornelius is considered to be the first photographer to have taken one all the way back in 1839. He did this by removing his lens cap and then running into a frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again. Inscribed on the back of the image was “The first light picture ever taken. 1839.”

 

Robert Cornelius Self-Portrait
Robert Cornelius’ Self-Portrait: The First Ever “Selfie” (1839).

“Selfie” as an art form? Perhaps not an actual art form all by itself yet, but its a form a digital self-expression, an extension of the art of self-portraiture – but the “Selfie” may just end up pushing the artistic boundaries of this particular medium and what it is. Trying to decide what is or isn’t an art form these days, raises more questions than they answer. Maybe we should just refer to it as “Selfie-expression”? The desire to turn our phone cameras on ourselves, in an almost obsessive and narcissistic way, is just going to grow in popularity, as technology continues to dictate how we use our smartphones. Of course, there is no denying that smartphone technology has essentially caught up with the camera. But for now, Ladies and Gentlemen take “Selfies”.

The “Selfie” Thinker

I can just about remember a time when phones weren’t such a big thing like they are today, and without sounding like some kind of luddite inspired liberal or technophobe harboring an all out irrational hostility to the modern world – love them or hate them, I would be lost without my smartphone.

We spend most of our time glued to our phones, checking our social media accounts, watching movies, checking for notifications, browse and read the internet, text, use an app or listen to music, keeping abreast of the latest Z-listed celeb news and even engage in an old fashioned “telephone call” now and again.

A few of us are familiar with some of the following scenarios:

  • Couples and families in a restaurant with their smartphones at hand – checking messages, emails and social networks, checking their phones repeatedly throughout the meal.
  • Shoppers and commuters standing in line, people criss crossing busy streets, cyclists and drivers whose eyes are on their phones instead of their surroundings.
  • People walking down the street with their eyes on their phones, bumping into others – instead of observing the world around them.
  • Children (and parents and even their parents) playing with a smartphone or some other device – rather than observing and learning from the world around them.

Though you could say that it’s all about choice and not the fault of the technology which allows it or which causes this kind of compulsive behavior – but over the past decade alone, technology has made tremendous strides in it’s complexity and integration into modern society. Our smartphones can offer us the convenience and assistance of no end of apps which make your phone seem like a pocket sized information bank. If only my thoughts weren’t distracted by frequently checking my smartphone caused by carrying around this powerful device with me all day long – my phone has just about managed to have this ability to distract myself constantly. I don’t think I have become a slave to my smartphone yet – I still want to experience life and spend time with the people and friends that matter to me. I am not completely unaware of the wonderful experiences that real world has to offer. If it wasn’t for the constant bombardment of bells, buzzes and chimes that alert me to messages which I feel obligated and compelled to view and respond to immediately.  Sometimes it gets so bad that I grow uncomfortable with any 30-second span of hands-free idleness.

Like my computer, I need to put my phone into some sort of sleep mode and just leave it alone – which might be a good hallmark of a healthy relationship with my phone, rather than my phone being something that I can’t live without. Unfortunately the smartphones and other technological devices that we use in a world where constant communication is a handy accessory – has made them become a second skin. Even with people I consider my best friends, it’s hard to think of a circumstance where not one of us touched their smartphone for one reason or another. Finding a balance between using our smartphones and being connected to the digital world with being able to comfortably turn off and disconnect is a main struggle underlying the current smartphone mania. I need to go back to talking face-to-face with all of my friends, to look them in the eye. To eat real food instead of photographing it. Not to drive into oncoming traffic while looking at my smartphone screen. Perhaps one day, I will be glad to be back in a world where I never had or depended on a smartphone. In a world that beats – waiting for the notification alert telling me that I exist.

 

Resistence is .. not futile

Merriam-Webster Definition of SOCIAL MEDIA : forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and micro blogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos).

Some days, I just cannot resist the temptation to check my social media, then check it again. And again. And so on. I think you get the point. What used to be something that I used to check occasionally has now started to take over my life (almost). I don’t want to give up social media completely, if that’s even entirely possible? Now, when I talk about checking my social media, it’s usually with my smartphone, and it has many other uses too. Texting, making calls (naturally), alarm clock, email, watching video, music, games (occasionally), and of course Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram and all those other temptations. This craving for social media feels like a virus that’s slowly starting to invade my body, and there’s no known cure. Slowly but surely, and before you realize it, social media methodically starts to consume most of your day. Perhaps, I should put my phone into quarantine, or keep it out of reach. I have tried to resist the temptation to check my social media by removing it and other devices from my desk for a couple of hours and from other places like the bedroom. Inevitably, this form of detachment and my desire to respond to Twitter or Facebook, or check texts and my email is just too great. I have a bad feeling that the more technology advances, it will become even harder to resist this sort of temptation. The essence of technology I think is to make you feel much more connected, which is what social media is all about. Not just staying in touch with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, but by texting and so on. I think our smartphones are now seen as an accepted form of socializing and to a greater extent, impacting on our real socializing. This video on YouTube really sums it up for me I Forgot My Phone (written by Charlene deGuzman) and it’s about a woman’s boyfriend paying no attention to her, as he would rather check his smartphone. Truly an insight into today’s smartphone obsessed culture. You are possibly even watching this video on your smartphone right now.

I have discovered that there is software available to help you with your online habits, or more specifically with social media sites. Firstly, for Apple Mac users there is software called  SelfControl which is free and helps you to avoid distracting websites. You just set a period of time to block them for, and add sites to your blacklist. Until that time expires, you are unable to access those sites. Be sure to try the 15 minute test before using it for longer first. For PC users you can try Cold Turkey that enables you to temporarily block sites that are distracting. It’s also possible to block sites on iPhone and iPad. You just go to Settings, then tap on General and then Restrictions. Then you just choose the sites and apps that you want to block. When you want to use them again, you just type in your phone’s password.

When is enough, enough? I check my social media 7 days a week, x amount of hours a day, way too much. There is a song by the Beatles – Eight Days a Week, where they sing about “hold me love me .. eight days a week .. always on my mind ..” and it seems relevant to social media. What seems to work for me now is just finding the right balance or to set myself a routine. You can try to ‘time manage’ yourself or set up a time that doesn’t involve using your phone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer. Try taking the dog for a longer walk, read a book for an hour or so, or anything else to help take your mind off those temptations. Of course, it involves some self control and will power, but don’t lose track of the end result, which is to try and help make your days belong to you once again. I am sure there are lots of other ways that you can think of to help resist the temptations. However, a step more draconian than something like watching grass grow is required. I am not suggesting that you need to find some other drastic measures to help wean you off your social media and technology addiction, such as locking your phone and other devices inside a box forever.

I wonder what if William Shakespeare were alive today, would he have even started to put pen to paper? He probably would have just got too distracted and caught up on social media, and would have spent all of his time on Twitter or Facebook. Maybe Leonardo da Vinci would have snapped pictures on Instagram rather than paint.  Who knows.

The thing about social media and it’s distractions is that you don’t have to quit using it all together, I believe that what you need to do, is to just find the right balance. It doesn’t have to be about social media all the time, and as hard as I try, I cannot resist the temptation to use it. I just need to use it less. I don’t think that using social media is going to make me a better or deeper person, but that was never my objective for using it in the first place.

Meanwhile, my social media adventures are still continuing.

 

Photo from StockSnap