A 'How-Not-To-Style-Your-Life' Guide

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Living Behind A Screen

“What’s on your phone that’s so important?”

“Shouldn’t you focus on the real world instead of the Internet?”

“How are you going to enjoy the moment if you’re always seeing it through a screen?”

When I think about it, I get asked the above more than I wish I did. In my experience, it’s usually the people who don’t fully understand social media or Internet culture that pose these questions. You know the sort, right? The kind of people who would ask a full-time blogger how exactly they make money and when they’re going to get a ‘real job’. The type of person who probably thinks a ‘flat lay’ is something to do with IKEA furniture.

I would be the first person to admit that I spend quite a lot of time on my phone. Whilst I might play the odd game every now and again, the chances are that if I’m on my phone, I’m probably checking Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. I’ll also be the first to admit that in lots of social situations, it really isn’t appropriate to be on your phone. For example, I wouldn’t scroll through Instagram whilst sat down for Christmas dinner with my family and I wouldn’t live tweet a first date or Snapchat a funeral. However, there are copious instances in which it HAS been acceptable for me to be on my phone and yet I still get accused of ‘living behind a screen’.

I would assume that the majority of the people who are going to read this post have been brought here by some form of social media, whether it was through my Snapchat story, a post on Instagram or someone retweeting it onto your timeline. Because of this, I feel like most of you might understand what I mean, and some of you may even be able to relate. Being told that I live my life ‘behind a screen’ irks me more than you could possibly imagine, and that’s the PG way of saying it.

I usually let little comments like that slide into the vast wasteland of opinions I don’t care about, but recently they’ve been playing on my mind more and more. Over the May Bank Holiday, Radio 1’s Big Weekend came to Exeter, my university town, and I was lucky enough to get my brother and myself tickets for both of the days. To put it simply, we saw some incredible artists and had an all-round amazing time. As some of you may have noticed, over the weekend, my Snapchat story escalated into new realms of excessive, becoming up to seven minutes long by the end of Sunday. I completely understand that not everyone will have wanted to watch the whole thing and most people will have skipped through it, but it really got to me when someone made a throw away comment about how I must’ve spent the entire weekend behind my phone.

I use my Snapchat story in two very different ways. The first is to document my life just like any other form of social media. More often that not, I’ll share little moments of my day, whether they be funny, pretty or outright mundane, with those who are interested enough to click on my story in the first place. The second way is that for special occasions, I treat my story as an audio/visual diary that I can share with anyone who wants to watch it and then save it for myself. I then upload all of these stories as unlisted videos on YouTube, meaning that I can watch them whenever I want and send them to any of my friends who want to see them as well.

My memory is a very strange thing. I can remember the most insignificant of details, from the room numbers of hotels I’ve stayed in to every score Rachel Stevens got on Strictly Come Dancing in 2008 (yes, I’m serious). However, I really struggle to remember the ‘bigger picture’, as it were. I’ve been fortunate enough to see almost all of my favourite artists live, for example, but whether I took photos/videos or not, I just can’t remember some of them.

This is why that I use Snapchat the way I do. If I’m at a gig and there’s a bit of a song that I really like, I’ll take my phone out of my pocket, record for ten seconds, hit add to story and put it away again. It’s as simple as that. I don’t record whole songs and I don’t spend the entire set trying to get the perfect photo to post on Twitter, which is something I’ve been guilty of in the past. Taking little videos like that requires minimal effort and doesn't distract me at all. I won't even watch it through the screen as I take them! I’m very much still 'in the moment', taking in my surroundings and most importantly, enjoying myself.

I know that for some people this may seem like an odd thing for me to have to justify, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on the matter. Choosing to document my life the way I do doesn’t alter my experiences. If anything, it enhances them. Choosing to Snapchat 6 minutes of a 12-hour day doesn’t mean that I spent it ‘behind a screen’. So, in answer to the questions at the top of this post:

1. What’s on my phone may not necessarily be more important than what’s going on in real life, but real life isn’t always more important.

2. Reinforcing the outdated binary of the ‘real world’ being consequential and the Internet being frivolous says more about you than you think it does. 

3. Capturing a moment on a phone or a camera doesn’t necessarily make it any less real. Perhaps if you remove your head from your sphincter, you’ll be able to ‘enjoy the moment’, too.

If you made it to the end of this ridiculously long post, thank you, and please be sure to share any of your thoughts on the matter in the comments!



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