You know the scene. You go to a concert and all you can see from your point of view is a sea of smartphones pointed at the stage. Or maybe you’ve gone to the botanical gardens and instead of flowers, you see smartphones focusing on the flowers.

It seems to me that we’ve become so focused on “capturing” the moments, we’ve forgotten how to “experience” them, first.

There’s a lot of talk these days centered around cell phones, social media, and common courtesies; things like:

  • Putting your phone down during meals with anyone.
  • Silencing your phones in a movie theatre.
  • Not texting or talking on the phone while driving.

These are simple common sense ideas; yet they’re three things (of many) that the majority of people haven’t been able to (or want to) accomplish. It’s like they’re afraid they might miss something very important the moment they look away from the phone (and in the case of texting or talking on the phone while driving, putting the rest of us in danger!).

News Flash: Earth has just been invaded by Mars!

Dang! I missed it!

I recently heard from someone who attended a wedding and recorded the whole thing on his phone – only to feel like he missed it! I’ve visited with family who spent the entire time texting friends or surfing the web rather than actually visiting with family. And I’ve held conversations with friends who were flipping through their phones rather than looking at me (narcissism aside…).

I’ve even heard of a game some friends play when they go out to dinner (which I think sounds like a great idea for those who aren’t “on call” with their job and need to be watching their emails and texts, of course): Everyone who comes to the table, must stack their phones to the side, face down. The first one to check their phone has to pay for dinner for everyone.

I know it sounds like I’m being one of those picky people who demand everyone adhere to the rules of Miss Manners, or like I’m one of those OLD FOLKS who always squawk about how we did things back when I was younger…. But in all honesty, American society (yes; I’m generally speaking) has lost its ability to engage and experience what is set before us. We’ll be talking with someone, and while in the midst of conversation, unconsciously pick up our phone and look to see if we just missed a text message, or if an email came in, or if someone posted something on Facebook that we need to “Like” right away.

We’ll go to historic or notable places, and rather than actually experience it (smell it, touch it, look at it, hear it… in detail, we photograph it or take selfies in front of it and quickly move on to the next thing to document. Then when we get home (or in the car), we sit down and flip through all the pictures we took to post them on Facebook or Instagram to see how many “Likes” we can get.

And how much of this conversation sounds familiar:

Waiter: And here’s your food. Enjoy.
Curious Bloke: Wow, that really looks delicious! Let me take a picture!
Hubby: But look at mine! Mine looks great too! I’m going to take a picture of it!
Curious Bloke: Oh! Look at this! Isn’t this a great picture! It looks so delicious! I’m going to post it on Facebook!
Hubby: Wow, it really looks good! I’m going to post mine on Facebook, too!
Curious Bloke: Nice! And I’m going to “Like” it because it really looks delicious!


(Although, in all honesty, Hubby and I are actually more of the opposite-type offenders. We’ll go somewhere and experience it, only to get home and realize that neither of us remembered to take a single picture! Somehow we keep forgetting to take pictures! Damnit!)

Yes, I believe we need to document the beauty, the fun, the faces, the places (and the food…) before us. However – first and foremost – we need to experience it. Put the phone down for a moment. Put the camera down for a moment. Actually look and see with your eyes and enjoy it for a while. Take in the smells, the feeling, the colours, the textures, the sounds of the moment and relish them.

Then snap that picture if you still want – and walk on to the next thing to experience. Or just continue experiencing it in person rather than through a lens. I guarantee you’ll have better photos (and fewer of them to delete or sort through) as well as better memories.