Pics or It Didn’t Happen: Social Media and Sacrificing the Moment

Riding uptown in a yellow cab, windows down, smelling the September air (surprisingly fresh despite this concrete jungle,) I pulled out my phone to snap a video for Instagram. I wished to share the moment with my followers, my friends, the world. But I quickly put my phone back in my purse, aware that if I began recording, the moment itself would change, and my simple enjoyment of that lovely moment in my life would transform into a desire to capture the moment.

The fact is, no matter how high-definition the footage, it is impossible to truly share a moment with others. All we can do is share a representation of it.

Photo by mikoto.raw on

By definition, attempting to “capture” the moment implies that the moment is wild, and free, and fleeting. Maybe the moment is not meant to be captured. Maybe that’s why we feel a sudden plummet in happiness when we stop chatting with friends, and begin taking pictures of ourselves chatting with friends – it’s a subtle but sickening feeling that I’m missing the moment because I’m so busy trying to bottle and contain it.

We’ve all had those nights where, because we were so busy having fun, neither we nor our friends took a single picture. Those moments become all the more precious, because they live only in our memory.

I’m not advocating for steering clear of pictures, videos, or Instagram and Snapchat moments. Pictures and videos can be special and serve a purpose. For example, when we lose a loved one, the memories – whether in our mind or in pictures and videos – are all that’s left. Or, when a person moves thousands of miles away from her best friends and family, pictures and videos can help soothe the longing and loneliness.

But I notice a disturbing obsession among our society lately, an obsession that can be summed up with the phrase, “Pics or it didn’t happen.”

I enjoy sharing fun times on the ‘gram as much as the next person, but I feel this creepy idea permeating society that pictures and videos are the fun times themselves.

I feel this overwhelming presence of a dark, insidious concept that the moments that live only in our memories, aren’t real; that we are compelled to document everything, and share everything, to receive the satisfaction that should come from the joy of the moment itself.

The protagonist of The Circle, an amazing book on this topic by Dave Eggers, said, “I want to be seen. I want proof I existed… Most people would trade everything… to know they’ve been seen and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered.”

I feel like this concept is relatable, and it also shows the temptation to give our power away. You see, we humans keep looking to one another to give us validation, to say, “Hey, I saw your post and it looks like you are doing great in life. Well done.” But that validation evaporates within moments, like a cheap drug, and we are left feeling even more disempowered. True validation comes from within, and is independent of others. It cannot be created by anyone else, nor can it be destroyed by anyone else.

The origin of the word self-confidence is the Latin confidere, which means “to have full trust.” So we don’t really need anyone else’s approval that we are enough, because we as individuals fully trust that yes, we are enough.

The same goes for the sweet pieces of moments of our lives. Confidence means trusting that because I experienced it, it exists. Sharing joy with others is a wonderful thing: it ought not be perverted into the idea that sharing with others is what makes a wonderful thing.

How many minutes, or even hours, of your day do you spend scrolling through the endless feeds? Do you feel that dark sensation growing inside you, the clamoring of your soul to please come back to reality and hangout with this wonderful, magical space-time reality that is literally designed for us to enjoy?

We all know the feeling of seeing everyone else’s highlights. Those folks are sharing their wonderful moments, and that’s great; we all have the right to use social media with whatever intent pleases us individually.

But can you really say you are experiencing the joy of another person’s moment? I can’t. And in the same way, I know that when I share moments from my life, despite the likes and comments, I know it is impossible for other people to truly experience the moment the way I have.

The poet Rilke wrote,

Just a moment …, I savour this … ah, but it’s flown already.
… Only a bit of music, stamping in time, humming-:

Moments come, and moments go, and I feel like that’s the beauty of this intransient life. All things die, all things go away, all things change. All we have is now, and here, this breath. And that is more than enough.

Thanks for sharing this moment with me,

Pearl ❤

By justpearlythings

I am a writer, a lover, and a believer in the good things in life. I write about mental health and wellness, along with book reviews and fashion opinions. My blog caters to thoughtful, growth-minded women and men, and offers insights and personal challenges that provide a space for relevant, meaningful connection. The World Wide Web is vast, it contains multitudes, and so do we as people. I believe that through self-awareness and honesty, we create a more loving planet for everyone. Feel free to follow this page and share it with friends and family. Love, Pearl

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