Getting out of bed at 5:30AM on a Sunday may not sound like a privilege to many people but I felt really lucky this morning. I went with the kids to the Spring Cycle to cross the bridge and explore the centre of Sydney with our bikes. I was joined by a friend from Croatia and another from Iran and we were there enjoying every moment of our expedition with the blue sky above our heads and in awe to be living in such a beautiful, safe and multicultural city.
I’ve been living in Sydney for 18 years and am now used to such high standards of living but having grown up in Brazil I’m all too aware that the way we live our lives in Australia is a privilege denied to most of the seven billion people that share this planet with us.
I’m not talking about wealth accumulation—although I’m sure that there are plenty of opportunity for this to those that seek financial riches—for me it’s the little things in life that make Australia so attractive. For instance, today I was able to catch a train at 6am with my bike without feeling threatened that I could be mugged or had my bike stolen. Then during the race my children took off and I only met them again at the finishing line and it didn’t worry me that they were out of sight for a little bit.
When you grow up in a country that has a decent welfare system and public infra structure that makes live more enjoyable it’s easy to complain when Sydney trains are running five minutes late. Sometimes when I hear friends whinging about minor irritations in essential services I wonder how they would cope in a country that offers very limited resources to their citizens.
Of course Australia has problems too, we just have to look at the inequality in the Aboriginal communities and we have to raise our voices to fix what’s not working. I think if we show gratitude for what we have and remind ourselves that many of our privileges are often determined by your geographical location we may become more generous as human beings.
Smart phones have turned everyone of us into photographers and curators of images to share on social media, but what I saw in the Sydney Running Festival last week took the concept of taking photos to a whole new level. This runner in front of me was holding a selfie stick and as I passed him by I could see him adjusting the stick while smiling at the camera. Talk about multitasking! I can’t imagine how anyone would run 21KM holding a stick – in addition to being a safety hazard it slows you down and in my view prevents you from paying attention to everything else, the race, the scenery, other runners. I don’t know if this runner did hold the stick all the way to the finish line and this is probably an extreme example, but what I find really sad is that in many situations we see people capturing the moment instead of enjoying the moment. Instead of looking at the rainbow we reach out to our phones to photograph the rainbow. We can look at it later when it’s on Facebook when our friends are liking it.
When we only had 24 pictures per roll we were much more mindful with what memories to record, we waited patiently to have them printed and placed in the album or shared with friends. We enjoyed the moment first, the photos came second.
I’m not suggesting that we should stop photographing. The photos we take and collect tell an interesting story about us and the world we live in. There are so many beautiful, provocative and curious events and things that illustrate our lives and it’s important to keep a record of them. But I’m arguing that the rush to digitally record every moment doesn’t make our lives more meaningful. Scientists even suggest that this mindless photo taking is ruining our memories.
I suspect that this need to capture every moment is fueled by our desire to show to the world how busy and important we are. Only the best snaps will be loaded on Facebook or Instagram to present ourselves in the light we think is most appropriate. In our hyper-connected world we need to be seen doing something exciting. You can no longer just sit and enjoy the sunshine at the beach. You must ensure you capture a nice image to share. That’s a lot of pressure to always be on the look out for excitement. The mind doesn’t get a break – when it does, we ensure it gets entertained with our phones, either by producing content or searching something online, reading the latest feeds, checking email or watching silly videos.
By sharing mindless photos and content online we are only contributing to the noise. So it would be really helpful if next time we feel the urge to grab our phones to photograph our breakfast, we take a step back and think if wouldn’t it be better to enjoy the experience instead? We probably will never look at that photo again and our friends won’t really like a cold coffee.