Cell Phone Cameras: A Blessing or a Curse?

Family Travel on 06.09.13
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Photo: mikebaird/ Creative Commons

For Apple users, the new iPhone advertising video is inescapable. The underlying beat is mind numbingly catchy too. The video cuts from scene to scene of people taking pictures and videos with their iPhones. Two teenagers are skateboarding and tripping over each other while they film. A woman snaps a picture through the window of an antique store. A jogger slows down to photograph a mountain-scape covered in fog. A puddle. Raindrops. Red shutters. A lush forest. A perfect latte. A colorful market in a city halfway around the world. We see iPhones hovering over the crowd of a dark concert, recording. A couple stops a biker to shoot them next to a breathtaking overlook. A toddler films her cat trapped under the bed. A father films his daughter falling off the beam at her gymnastics meet...the recording probably also catches him cursing, which they don't show in the ad.

By the end of the video, I am breathless, close to tears. There is something magical about the world circling so close around us. I can see places I will never visit through the eyes of my friends' images and videos. Parents on business trips can still be there for the big game or the school play...well, sort of. The camera phone is a phenomenon that developed while I wasn't paying attention. I can remember the days without a cell phone attached to me at all times, never mind one with a camera and the internet. Now, as the omnipresent Apple announcer says at the end of the video, "Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera."

As much as I love snapping and sharing on my cell phone, sometimes I wonder what I am missing. Just the other day, walking in the woods, we came upon an odd but awe-inspiring interaction between a turkey and a deer, and my first thought was to whip out my camera to capture the image, so I could post it later. It is tempting to think that we are preserving the moment, but we can't actually re-live through photographs. Are we are becoming less present in the moment, because of our preoccupation with recording and sharing images and experiences? Today at the beach, when my daughter saw me staring at her making a sand castle, she asked, "Do you want to take a picture, mom?" But this time, I said I was happy just looking at my baby (plus, I didn't want to get sand in my phone).

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