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Pay attention to what you're doing, not the picture you're taking.

Pay attention to what you’re doing, not the picture you’re taking. Photo: Adam Burns


The Inertia

There’s this new thing out that you may have heard of. It’s called Instagram. Apparently, it’s getting pretty popular. I struggle with something that is almost purely – except for a select few people who actually have an eye for a beautiful photo and take them because they love to take beautiful photos – just an exercise in vanity. Look what I did! Look where I was! Have you done this? Don’t you wish you had?

Here’s my main beef: when I look at a friend’s Instagram, I see a lot of people doing some pretty amazing things. Doing epic shit, as a wise man once said. But then it makes me wonder about how much epic shit people are doing because they LIKE doing epic shit… or whether they’re doing it to show people they’ve done it.

I’ve done some pretty cool things in my day (at least I think they are, anyway). A lot of it isn’t documented, and sometimes I wish I had a camera with me on a particular day. But every time I actually have a camera and I’m intent on documenting whatever it is I’m doing, it never seems quite as fantastic as it could be. Think about it: pretend you wake up one morning. The sun is just poking her yellow head out from underneath the blanket that is the horizon. A cool breeze pushes wispy clouds through the late dawn sky, and the tide is just right. Light offshore winds hold up head high tunnels running just off the point. Perfect swell direction, warm water, a few good friends, great coffee, and just a touch of a hangover. Everything is as it should be. Then you pull out your phone, start snapping pictures, adding filters, hashtags, and whatever else you add. Isn’t the magic of that perfect morning just a little bit diluted? It’s as though a camera phone has some kind of built in feature that filters out the awesome.

I think, in the end, a lot of it comes down to me wanting to see people fully immersing themselves in what they’re doing. If you’re always thinking about how you can show people what you’re doing, can you really concentrate on the epic-ness of the shit you’re doing?

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So how can you really best document a surf trip? Here are four ideas, and feel free to add your own.

1. Take photos… with a camera, and not the one on your phone. There’s a saying somewhere about how, in our rush to make our lives easier, we’ve made them more difficult. I know, I know. But my iPhone can do everything! I can talk and write emails and take pictures and teleport and transmogrify! All at once!  But do you want to do all that at once? Just because we have the ability to do something doesn’t mean we have to do it.

2. Write a journal. Read it later. Oh, the memories! You can’t take a picture of how that breeze smells, but you can write about it, even if it smells like a dead dog that’s been rotting in the ditch for two weeks. Of course, you could take a picture of that, but then you’d have to go and find the dog and take a picture of it. Then you’re the weirdo taking a picture of a dead dog.

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3. Talk about it. Come home, sit down with people that were with you, and laugh about things. Point fingers, assign blame. Call that guy out that burned you on the one wave that would’ve been the best one of your life.

4. Just REMEMBER it. Yes, I would like to see pictures of your trip. I would love to hear stories of your trip. But not on Instagram. Not on facebook. Just tell me. Tell me about the smell of that dead dog. Tell me about the guy that burned you. Actually, let’s go find that guy.

Instagram – and most of social media – seems to me to be a shimmering full body suit that gets in the way of life’s most amazing moments. You can still see them, still experience them, but everything is muffled. Concentrate on how great this is, not how great others will think it is. Take off the suit. Anyway, it’s constrictive and it makes your butt look big.

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