2013-04-18 / Columns

Picture this: So many images and little reality

A column by Patti Brandt

I’m one of those people who hates having my picture taken.

So in a world that has become obsessed with documenting everything — and I mean everything — I am driven nuts.

Everywhere I go my friends want to get a picture of all of us doing whatever it is we’re doing. Even if that’s nothing. They stretch out their arms and snap. If they look good, it doesn’t really matter that you got caught stuffing a huge bite of chocolate-dripping ice cream into your mouth, it goes on their Facebook page. Where there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

None of us are immune. All of us are out there, posted on somebody’s page — maybe someone we don’t even know, in the background doing something stupid, something unattractive, something human. Like it or not, we’re all on ‘the cloud.’

These days, with digital pictures that don’t have to be developed at the local Fotomat, people are taking thousands of pictures of themselves from every angle and in every state of dress and undress. They’re taking pictures of themselves at every single place they go, even if that’s the bathroom at a local restaurant. And they’re taking pictures of themselves with everyone, like the ticket-taker at the movie theater. Huh?

Last summer three of my girlfriends from downstate came to visit. It was a perfect June day and we were on M-109 headed towards Empire. The road was tattooed with spots of sunlight beaming through a tunnel of vibrant green leaves. The car windows were open and the smell of the trees was streaming in. The birds were chirping and ... well, you get the picture.

I looked over at Gloria in my passenger seat. She was sending someone a picture of something, I think.

I looked in the mirror at Lisa and Tina in the back seat. They were trying to figure out how to use some app that would do something to their pictures, I think.

All three were oblivious to their surroundings. My inner mom came out and I yelled at them.

“Here we are in the most beautiful place in the world and none of you are even seeing it!”

They laughed, momentarily distracted by life.

We got to the Glen Lake Overlook at the Pierce Stocking Drive and, of course, there had to be a picture. Some lovely stranger offered to take it so we could all be in it, much to my chagrin. It’s out there somewhere, along with pictures of us at the beach, at the dunes, eating dinner, watching a movie and, no doubt, scratching our backsides.

I heard a blurb on The Rock Center on Friday about how people are living outside of their own memorable moments. That when they meet someone famous, like say, the pope/ the president/Paul McCartney, they hold up their devices and view the maybe once-in-a-lifetime moment from a screen that measures about 4 inches by 2 inches. They are so busy documenting the moment they aren’t even a part of it. They’ve missed it.

It will no doubt later be posted online so that everyone knows they “met” the pope/the president/Paul McCartney, but if they didn’t actually lay eyes on him, does it count?

It’s kind of like the proverbial tree in the forest. If no one heard it fall, did it really make a noise? If no one saw us in our moment, did it really happen?

Can’t we all just enjoy the moment? Why do we need proof that the moment existed? Can’t our moments exist in our heads? And in our hearts?

Maybe there’s more to it. Maybe it’s not the actual remembrance of the moment that we seek. Maybe what we seek is other people’s approval, or even envy, of our enjoyment of our moment. Perhaps we want them to know that we are living well and having fun, even if we’re not. Maybe in this day and age our image counts for more than our reality. Maybe, in the end, we are really just trying to fool ourselves.

If I was a little younger, a little thinner and was one of the blessedly photogenic people of the world I might just be one of the pictureobsessed. But I’m not. So I’m not going to post a picture of myself at my best angle taken from somewhere near my desk at the offices of the Leelanau Enterprise in Lake Leelanau.

Aren’t you lucky.

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