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Status: Online, but not present

Claudya Elleossa
Claudya Elleossa

Young civic teacher who is passionate about writing

Jakarta | Fri, August 18, 2017 | 08:56 am
Status: Online, but not present

Indonesia has as many as 45 million monthly users on Instagram, making it the Asia-Pacific's largest market. The country also produces twice as many stories as the global average. (Shutterstock/PixieMe / Shutterstock.com)

A US-based Indonesian photographer was in charge of documenting his brother’s wedding. I was following the whole ceremony through his social media feed. One of his Instagram stories captured a moment when the couple was walking down the aisle and the guests were holding out their phones the entire time, documenting the procession in their own way, for their own feed. The caption reads, “Be present people. Please be present.”

It was a wake-up call for me, someone who usually is a part of the camera-ready herd.

I began to question the importance of an online presence nowadays. It’s appalling how most of us invest (or waste?) too much time and energy on our online persona.

Take Instagram stories for example. People spend minutes crafting the perfect 10-second video, only to have it disappear within 24 hours. What’s the point really, to take your phone out, simultaneously taking yourself out of the moment, to record something that won’t even last longer than our own memory?

Read also: Jakarta named the most popular location tag on Instagram Stories

It seems like we have become so obsessed with experiencing life through our smartphone screen rather than our own eyes.

Maybe it’s not that easy to put our phone down to be completely present in this life we live in. Sacrificing online reputation and popularity seems to be highly complicated. It’s like we have this urge to prove to everyone that we are having a blast in life. (Are we really though? Or do we just pretend to appear like we are having fun so it would look good on our profile? That’s another question for another time.)

If the reason is to share happiness, I think just one picture captured with sincere words would be enough. If perpetuating memory is the purpose, well, I believe the professional photographer is hired for a good reason. A professional does the job better than us and our smartphone camera anyway.

Again, there really is no point for us to keep our eyes on our devices all the time.

I’ve been trying to push myself not to take my phone out on important occasions, either during the special dinner I had with my students, birthday celebrations of a good friend or at weddings. I would take one or two snaps and that’s it. I don’t really care about sharing the perfect picture or video, let alone fifteen of those. The opportunity to be able to feel, touch, see and hear every detail of the moment is all I seek for. I love to watch the smile of the bride closely, the nervous grin of the groom, the smell of the flowers, or the sound of the chirping birds. Those are precious details that would go unnoticed if I was too busy making up my supposedly perfect online life.

Read also: Sugar not so sweet for mental health

Remember: You don’t need to prove to anyone what a great time you’re having. More importantly, people will probably forget about your updates anyway in the next two hours. What stays is the memory of moments that will draw a smile on your face when you recall them in the future.

So please, be present. Everything that happens in your life will only happen once. Cherish it. Soak it in, so it lasts more than 24 hours.

Also, remember that not everything needs to be shared. Some moments need to be stored in your own memory.

Someday I hope you will have the chance to tell your kids or your grandkids about every detail of those treasured moments. Then your stories will last forever, from generation to generation, being the best legacy you could ever gift to the world. Doesn’t that sound so much better than having one piece of a vintage photograph and not being able to tell what was really happening that very day, because you’re too busy looking for the perfect angle for your temporary "Stories"?

Be present, people. Please, just be present.

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A young civic teacher who is passionate about writing and always promises herself to be life-long learner, she counts the chance to volunteer as a treasure for life that she won't trade for anything.

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