Living through a lens


Courtesy of Sarina Upadhye

Sarina Upadhye, junior, traveled to Vietnam over winer break and posted this picture on her Instagram.

Spring break is coming up in a couple days, so vacation is on everyone’s mind. And a majority of us also have another thing occupying our thoughts: vacation pictures. In this era, without recording our actions and experiences, it’s easy to question: did it even happen?

I think we are all guilty of “living life through a lens” to some extent. It’s hard to become detached from social media once it is in our hands. Taking pictures on vacation has now become a guarantee; whether it’s in front of the Eiffel tower, the Statue of Liberty or the cart selling street food in Little India, we find the need to document our experience to show the rest of the world what we are doing.

Then the question becomes: Is it okay to live life like this or are we slowly becoming so detached from ourselves that physically being on vacation is no longer important? To truly enjoy life, not even just vacation, we need to put away the lens and start looking at things with our own eyes. I can remember so many instances where something amazing was happening, Fourth of July fireworks, a peacock spreading its feathers, a bull racing alongside my car (yes, this did really happen), yet I really can’t remember them. What I remember is the video or the picture that I was taking at that instant. The feelings, the smells, the rush, and the moment are forgotten.

According to a TripBarometer survey, 85 percent of US travelers brought their phone on their trips and 61 percent of people reported using social media during their vacation. I understand the necessity of bringing your phone with you, living without your phone means giving up the luxuries of using a digital GPS, visiting Yelp to look up places to eat, and being able to contact others in case of an emergency: all things necessary on a trip to a foreign location. However, being active on social media isn’t as necessary and I am sure that many of us can vouch for the statement that most are very active on social media during vacations.

Many students have the tendency to post heavily about their vacations on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms. They blow up these profiles with pictures of the scenery, themselves with the scenery, the food they are eating, where they are staying, etc. The pictures are nice to look at occasionally, but then it comes to times like spring break where everyone is out doing the same thing and then constantly seeing these pictures becomes dreadful.

Courtesy of Ameera Ilyas
Ameera Ilyas, junior, visited Prague this summer and took this picture with the unique architecture in the heart of the city.

And although it’s easy to bash others who excessively post on their profiles about these things, we have to also look at ourselves and question whether or not we are living our life through a lens because it comes with consequences. Not only do we not get to experience the full event because of our constant need to document it, the value of the trip or the experience diminishes. Why? Because we now are judging the value based off what others think about it  (the comment, the likes, etc) rather than what we feel. Our need to worry about how others perceive us puts us in one place physically but mentally we aren’t really there.

I decided to get other people’s opinions on their experience with taking photos while traveling, since I don’t travel as often as some. I talked to a frequent flyer, junior Ameera Ilyas, who in this year alone has travelled to the Dominican Republic, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Florida, U.K., France, Switzerland and this spring break plans on visiting Pakistan.

“When I go places, I literally force my mom to take pictures of me because I love taking [pictures] and sometimes I think about the pictures I could take for my Instagram or VSCO when I go to a certain place. I’ll often look and see how others take the picture at that place and try to see if I can do something similar,” Ilyas said. “I feel like even though I am not always too worried about taking pictures, there is this idea that people will always take the opportunity to take a picture instead of enjoying the moment and just looking at the scenery. Part of the reason I take pictures though is because my memory is terrible so I won’t remember being at a certain place unless I have a visual guide jogging my memory. But at the same time I feel like I’m not truly in the moment.”

I get the point that without a visual recollection, you may not remember your trip years from now but, to me, I think looking at pictures of a trip won’t make you remember anything that you felt in that moment, it will just allow you to see what you had seen on vacation, something you can easily do with a quick google search. To truly remember a moment to the full extent, put your phone away and capture a mental picture. So, this spring vacation, let’s try to live in the moment and snap mental pictures for a longer lasting remembrance.