Inspiration! Taking in life without a phone (a personal challenge)

Look at this photo and guess what has inspired me to a new personal challenge?

Photo from The Boston Globe

Do you see her? Of course you do! The lone person without a cell phone in a crowd will, indeed stand out. It's not just her lack of a cell phone that is inspiring, though. Look at her face. Look how happy she is. Yes, everyone else looks happy too, but they also look like they are reaching - trying - for something. Of course they do, they are trying to get a good photo of the celebrities walking by at this fancy red carpet event for a movie I haven't heard of.  (Sigh.)

What a magical moment.  What joy to actually just experience life without needing to prove that you were there or save the moment.

Now, I'm not ragging on people taking pictures of things, not really.  I love photography.  I am old enough that I learned how to develop film and print my own photos in high school, and I even had my own little darkroom in my parents' basement.  I had dreams of becoming, among other things, a photographer.

All that to say, taking photos is great, and I am not snobby enough to write off phone cameras.  They are convenient and you can get some gorgeous shots on them.  Why the heck would we put that down?

That said, my love for photography combined with my penchant to hold on to things and my inclination to sharing everything (hello, I'm a blogger, this is how we desperately justify our existence), meant I was photographing EVERYTHING.  I spent a lot of time lining up a good photo of something I was experiencing rather than just experiencing it.

I have also noticed a disturbing trend in my photo sharing.  More an more often, I re-open Instagram minutes after I posted something to see how many likes it got, or check the likes and comments on my friends' photos and compare them to my numbers.  I am aware, as I do this, that it is truly unhealthy, self-absorbed, neurotic behaviour that defeats the purpose of joyfully sharing images and can only make me feel bad.  I do it anyway.

So it is time for an intervention!  Inspired by this lovely woman, I am challenging myself to go the entire month of October without taking a single photo.  This, of course, means that I also cannot share any photos, which is the other half of the problem here.  Two in one!

Now, this isn't a majestic, living-in-the-moment, my-month-will-be-more-genuine-than-your-month challenge.  It is actually more like a test. I genuinely enjoy photography, and I find that the time spent with a person or object while I'm photographing it (even just on my phone) can increase my connection to it, so I am not operating under the automatic assumption that events will be more meaningful without my camera.

Plus, I have a terrible memory and will probably forget more things without photos.  On the flip side, without even the temptation to take a shot, will I engage in a deeper way and form better memories?  Will an inability to craft my image online through photos help me stay present or not?  Why do we need to share every single freaking thing we do online?  But isn't that a wonderful way to build connections?  Good questions!  These are things I'm going to find out.

So that's it, no photos until November 1!

NOTE: There is one exception to this no-photos rule.  My job is publicity and marketing, which includes social media.  I have to take photos to do my job.  So job-related photos are okay, because they have to be.

NOTE 2: If you are noticing that it is already October 14th, fear not!  I have been abiding by this challenge all month.

NOTE 3: If you are wondering, so far this month I haven't noticed a big difference in how I experience things without taking photos.  The big tests are yet to come, though!  I am going on a staff retreat this weekend, and Halloween is coming.  These would be times I would be snapping away like crazy, if life were normal.

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