A comment on a recent blog post got me thinking: “Next time maybe just stop the car, forget the photo and enjoy the sunset in front of you and the way it changes………why do you need to share it with others……..does the sun not set where they live?”
In The psychology of social media: Why we feel the need to share, Victoria Halina asks
What is it that propels us to document our lives and why do we feel we absolutely need to post the things we do on social media?
I spent a few minutes thinking about that and about my half-assed attempts to stay current with Twitter and Instagram, neither of which I do well. I’d nominated Twitter as a way to promote my travel blog and Instagram as a way to promote my cemetery one. But as I say, I fall way short in giving them the care and attention they need if I’m to use them to grow my audience. That tells me that I’m not all that bothered about my audience … my blogs are more for me (an aide memoir) and the handful of friends who want to travel with me, share my interest in cemeteries, or are curious about what I’m up to.
My sharing on social media is limited to things I think others might enjoy, like James Taylor’s updated version of Fire and Rain.
But to get back to my sunset and my need to get that photo.
Liz Stinson, writing for Wired a few years back, in a piece called How to stay in the moment: take a picture, had this to say:
Maybe it’s because cameras are with us all the time now, or maybe it’s because social media ruins everything, but somewhere along the way we’ve been conditioned to believe that taking photos is the opposite of living in the moment. That snapping a pic is like pulling blinders over your eyes and opting out of the experience. Despite my momentary anxiety, I don’t actually believe that’s true. And neither does science. Taking pictures, it turns out, can have all sorts of benefits, so long as you’re taking them for the right reasons.
There’s an argument that taking a photo actually helps us focus more intently on what we’re seeing. I’ve noticed that I pay more attention to what’s around me, perhaps subconsciously looking for a shot that will support a blog or inspire a blog or whatever. I take photos to remember things (usually for blogs), to offload a memory so that I don’t have to use any bandwidth in remembering it myself (usually book covers, recipes, bills, signposts), or to share on social media (see the blog bit).
Do I have a compulsive need to share?
When we share, our brain releases the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, which apparently relieves stress. I can’t say I’ve noticed. When other people share with me, I’m grateful though, and I know from experience that gratitude contributes to happiness and health. Sharing also makes things real for me, more enjoyable. Add all that to the fact that I’ve been conditioned to share, from even before I was old enough to know what sharing meant.
But back to the photo. Why didn’t I simply stop and enjoy the sunset? Why did I need to take a photo? I took it because I wanted to remember it. It was stunning. I wanted to capture it in something other than my mind’s eye. And sadly, as usual, I was in too much of a hurry to stop and wait and watch. But that’s something I don’t have time to think about today.
I’m glad I shared it. And I’m grateful for the comments, the interactions, the prod to reflect, to think, to question.