As a Digital Caveman, I often wonder about life as a digital cave dweller. I remember in the early 2000’s when digital cameras began to show up and photography traditionalists were still stuck on the notion that went something like this, “digital pictures are nice, but film will never go away”. . . here we are at the end of 2011 and I seriously can’t remember the last time I saw someone with a film camera; in fact, it’s hard to find places to even develop film. If you had told me ten years ago when I first began using a digital camera with a whopping 2.0 megapixel capability that in the year 2011 practically everyone would not only have a digital camera, but it would be built into their cell phones and take 5-10 megapixel quality pictures and shoot high-definition video, I would have said you were nuts. If you would have told me that I would be able to not only take a photograph of every event and practically every second of my day, but also upload it into the cloud somewhere for all the world to see, my eyes would have spun with wonder.
So here we are and suddenly all the world is a photographer and life as we once knew it has forever changed. If I look at the pictures that were taken of my childhood, there’s about 2-3 pictures that represent every year of my life. One of those three pictures is a school photo, another is a little league sports photo, and the last might be Christmas day or a birthday. Today, between my wife and I we might take on average 2-3 hundred photos a week of just my son alone, not to mention everything else we capture. He will be able to look back in 20 years and practically see every important moment and event of his life. What will be the ramifications on the human psyche of such a capability? How will a photo journal of your entire life affect your perception of yourself in the future. Are there some things better left to the imagination? Will nostalgia as we know it disappear because the mysteries of our childhood will no longer live in our imaginations, but instead in a hard-drive stored in an old shoe box in the back of the closet? Or better yet, stored in a digital closet in the clouds somewhere for all the world to see. These are just a slither of the questions I have when I begin to cross-reference the past, the present, and the future and all three of their relationships with the digital cosmos. But with every technological advancement comes some sort of sacrifice, problem or weird joke that the technological goddess likes to play on us.
As history continues to show us, with every new technological advancement, comes a whole set of unforeseen problems, which are then followed by a whole other new set of technologies whose sole purpose are to solve the problems created by the earlier technology. For instance, it’s great to be able to document all of the cool things that happen at every waking moment of our existences, but there’s a price to pay. And this wonderful capability seems to tug at old sensibilities long forgotten. For me it is the rushed anxiety I experienced as a youth that hurried me to express myself before ready. . .that also had me putting energy into ideas by talking about them instead of initiating them. . it’s self torture all over again except this time it’s ordered by ones and zeros.
It’s 6:30 in the morning and my wife, son, and I are on the beach waiting for the sun to rise in all of its free and natural glory. But instead of being completely aware, in-the-moment and open to its wonder, I’m concerned with the settings on my camera, juiced batteries and what time it is; I’m checking an app on my phone that tells me the exact minute the sun will break the horizon. By the time the sun breaks through, I’ve already rushed and stressed myself about what’s supposed to be a calming experience. As it rises, I’m one-eye and a lens removed from the experience. I’m not looking at the sunrise in the moment but instead looking into the future and wondering how it will look on my blog or facebook page and imagining how many likes and comments it will receive. Or wondering how my life might be perceived by the people who already know me or by someone I sat next to in the seventh grade and haven’t seen since. Then I become too self-conscious and say to myself, no, I’m not going to post it because I don’t won’t people to think I have to share all the rad moments in my life. Surely, from one picture of one moment in my life someone will really be able know exactly what kind of life I live, right? What if, just for a week, everyone on facebook posted only the negative, boring or bad moments that passed in their life. What would that do to our perceptions of life? Of ourselves? Of others? Are we too fragile a creatures to handle such an existence?
Yes, what happened to enjoying a simple sunrise. I missed it entirely because I was busy wondering what it might look like in the future, and suddenly, I decide the whole thing feels just a little too narcissistic and decide to not post anything. Which becomes the case more often than not. Which then results in me having to by five extra hard-drives just to store all of these half-captured moments. So there you have just a glimpse of the modern condition of a digital caveman: A string of ironies that loop back around on themselves in chaotic and unrecognizable syncopated patterns that mimic the mysterious rhythms of the universe. So here I am at the end of 2011 reflecting on the significant events of the year and before me on my cell phone I can already begin to see what the future of reflection will look like as I sift through the 1500 plus photos on my cellular phone that I took during the year. What the heck, hard-drives can be expensive. Enjoy!!