11 Dec In praise of Christmas before Instagram
Recently, I was at a book launch in Marylebone. The great and good of British journalism had showed up. As I gawped at the impressive faces around me, I realised that not one of them had their phones out. The next day, the internet wasn’t cluttered with pictures taken by those at the event. There was no selfies or group shots. Those that attended, mostly, were of a generation for which pulling out a phone and taking a selfie just wasn’t part of their mindset. For them, it clearly hadn’t become a social reflex or ingrained instinct. And it was refreshing to see. Especially when you consider, that according to stats from InfoTrends, in 2017, we took a staggering 1.2 trillion photos world wide.
And, now, as we’re about to enter December, I hope that we can remember what Christmas was like before Instagram. Just like those baby-boomer journalists, I hope we remember that social outings aren’t just about social media. I hope that when I go to drinks parties and outdoor markets this Christmas, that Instagram is an afterthought, at most. And I hope that when people come together, as tired and clichéd as this might sound, it’s about being with one another, there, in that moment. I hope that we remember company is those we are with – not those we try to impress or convince online. I hope we remember that the joy is being there – not letting others know you were there.
But what’s the harm, you might wonder? And don’t get me wrong – I love pictures. My mum’s got boxes of them which I fish through when I visit her like some kind of memory lane lucky dip. But the instantaneous nature of social media and the validation we crave from likes is a dangerous modern symptom of taking photographs. We’re forgetting to live in the moment, we’re forgetting to appreciate what is in front of us, and we’re increasingly dissatisfied IRL unless our experiences are somehow made official by the judgement of others. Today it can feel like something is only an experience if we can share it with people online. As a result, we’re dulling our experiences; we’re removing ourselves from the interactions that make us feel most alive. Because we’re never truly present if we’re thinking about what is happening on our phone, so how can we be truly experiencing anything?
And so this year, let’s remember what Christmas was like before Instagram. When we see those we love, let’s just hug them and chat and natter and laugh, without having to share anything, other than a bottle of fizz and their magnificent company.