It is hard to have a genuine smile on your face when you're surrounded by cameras.
Oh no, this is no snide reference to what I do for a living. It is a rather grating reminder of the fact that everyone and their aunts are now armed with smart phones and cameras and, as if that wasn't enough, selfie sticks. (Side note, I take a lot of joy in the fact that my computer still spits out a scraggly red line under the word "selfie". Just saying.) Ironically, when almost every other photograph comes with the hashtag #candid, there is no such thing as candidness anymore. We're all now just parts of someone's cover photos and we can find each other lost behind a myriad of instagram filters.
"But first, let me take a selfie."
You're getting ready for a night out with your friends? Time to whip out that cell phone and cram six faces and an ample amount of cleavage into one screen. You're spending a lazy weekend at home in your pyjamas? Time to spend ten minutes getting that messy bun just right for the perfect Instagram post. Found a cool looking butterfly? Oh wait, photo toh chahiye yaar. (All butterflies are cool, just saying.) Going to see a new film? Wait wait wait, I need a photo of the title credits. Diwali? "Look at how pretty that flame on the diya is." Makar Sankranti? Photos with beautiful tukkals in the sky are mandatory, duuddee. Vacation? Oh you have to begin right from the boarding pass. Take one good scroll through a Facebook timeline, and you know exactly where that person has been, whom with, and what they were wearing and eating. Makes the whole idea of "What's up? What have you been up to?" rather useless, doesn't it? Sometimes it feels like our life gets reduced to a Facebook album.
Our routines now involve including an extra few minutes to click the right photographs and another few to upload them on all our social networking accounts. Don't get me entirely wrong, sometimes I'm just as guilty of this as the next person, but what I fail to understand is when it became a priority for us. So much so, that it is now imperative to capture a moment even before we live it, if we live it at all. The fact that you saw a beautiful sunset or shared it with someone who was sitting next to you is clearly not enough any more. We need to share it with the thousand other people, because of course it we don't, they will have no clue what a sunset is like. We share to show off where we are, we share to show off who we're with, what we're doing.
What scares me the most is the fact that whenever I go to any place, or for something that is going to be a unique experience, I know that I make a special effort to take photos and videos and record everything. I assume there is nothing wrong with that, but my problem occurs when I get so busy capturing photographs that I actually put taking all of the visuals in at the back-burner. I have a hundred photos of the Jeep Safari I went for, but ask me what it felt like or looked like, I'll take a while to recall it. I went to see Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge at Maratha Mandir- which is unarguably a historic moment for me. Everything was perfect, but after I kept interrupting my viewing process to take photos of iconic scenes on the silver screen, I knew I had ruined the charm. Having the perfect Facebook and Instragram posts just wasn't enough. I view everything through a camera lens, but I don't always know what it looks like to the naked eye. Just the other day, there was a woman on the local train that I was on with a pet monkey on a leash. Before it even registered that it could be dangerous or to think of what her story could have been, the jaws of my phone had already snapped the image. And that was that- I may have sent the photo to five people, but my thinking process stopped there. When we have a strong opinion, we voice it on our Facebook status. Again, nothing wrong with that, except that the voicing ends there.
I try thinking of the whys and the wherefores, but honestly I can't. At some point in our journey from sitting through newly developed photo albums from the neighbourhood One-Hour Studio and bonding over them to stalking random people and their Instagram accounts, we lost the idea of truly living a moment. We've lost the charm of being so involved in an experience that we have no clue of the outside world. In stead, we now make it our priority to make sure that the whole world is involved in our moment.