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Pics Or It Didn’t Happen

February 28th, 2019
Kari Hoeft
By Kari Hoeft read
Posted in Culture

Picture this: three girls, hand in hand and in mid-air just before they splash into the beautifully blue water below them…an impossibly delicious-looking waffle, topped with whipped cream and perfectly sliced strawberries, posing on a wooden table with a crisp white tablecloth, on a balcony overlooking the city at the break of dawn…a man in a Patagonia sweatshirt, Nike shoes, and a hat donning his favorite college football team, standing atop mountain with his back to you, arms outstretched into the grandeur of creation…

Now imagine finding yourself in each of these moments – without a camera.

Is this a tragedy? Maybe. But let me ask you this – is the water any less refreshing? Did the waffle get a little soggier? The mountains take a little less of your breath away?

Of course not! At least, I hope not. Let’s chat social media, shall we?

Social media can be a great way to share our experiences with others, particularly with family and friends we don’t otherwise see very often. And the fact that the majority of us don’t go anywhere without a camera in our pocket is pretty crazy!

If we went back even just the span of my lifetime, we’d find a world where you wouldn’t see the photo of your new puppy for a few days after taking it, if not longer! Besides this, the only way to share that photo with others was in person or via snail mail. As in envelopes and stamps. (gasp!)

Now answer me this – if we suddenly returned to this time, would you still take as many pictures as you do? If each picture you took was purely for the sake of your own memory-keeping, would you really routinely take pictures of plates of food, or of your face? Or are you taking pictures for the sake of social media? Dare I go a step further – are you living for social media?

Last summer, a friend described to me her excitement for an upcoming vacation at the lake (shout out to Minnesota summers!). It sounded great! That is until she proceeded to describe, in great detail, the reason for her excitement: cruising the lake on a perfect summers day, sporting her new red bikini and sunglasses, arm outstretched holding a big, shiny fish that she (or let’s be real, probably her boyfriend) just caught, would make the perfect Instagram post. We’re talking like 400 likes. Minimum.

While this story is a bit extreme, how many of us are tempted to do this very thing, even if we don’t voice it, or even realize it? Are we diving into life experiences for the joy of the experience, or for the joy of sharing the experience with our ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ in the virtual world? What is the intention behind our photo-taking?

Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting we abandon all social media and picture-taking. What I am suggesting is that we take a moment to reflect on our intentions in our picture-taking habits. Next time you instinctively reach for your phone to snap a photo, ask yourself: would I take this photo even if social media didn’t exist? If it was just for me, and maybe a handful of close family and friends?

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Come on, Kari, social media isn’t about to disappear. What’s the big deal?”

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve got it all figured out, but here’s what I do know: when I am more active on social media, I find myself less present in the world around me. Instead, I am constantly on the lookout for moments that would best capture my experience, impress my friends, or make them laugh. I may be physically present, but far from entering into the present moment fully. Can you relate?

I challenge you to reflect on your photo-taking habits and intentions, too. Plan a day out with friends or family, but forget the camera. Invest in the people in front of you, instead of those in the virtual world. Enter into the experience fully, purely for the sake of enjoyment! You might be surprised how freeing it can be. I know I was!

Kari Hoeft
Kari Hoeft

About the Author

Kari Hoeft is a 2018 graduate of the College of St. Benedict/St. John's University with a BA in Liturgical Music and Theology. She grew up on a farm in Central Minnesota with her family of eight where she fell in love with playing piano, any and all sports, and ice cream. The invitation to live a life fully alive drew her to the Culture Project, and this is her first year as a missionary. "The Culture Project's message reached the depths of my heart and answered many of my life’s most profound questions, and I want other young men and women to experience that same awakening."

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