Your camera or your happiness?

Recently, I went to a beautiful hill station here in India. I visited some popular tourist attractions and took a bunch of pictures.

Once back, I made a collection of the pictures I liked and shared them on Facebook(FB). Now if you are on FB, you can probably relate to the satisfaction one can get out of the likes one’s pictures receive.

But when I was taking those pictures and, later, as I was seeking those likes on FB, I felt something was not quite right with the activity. There was something bothering me but I didn’t know what.

Enjoying the moment

I feel now that my focus on taking those pictures was taking me away from the experience. Instead of enjoying the moment, I was focusing more on taking good pictures, to later share with others and to look back upon the trip.

As far as I can see, to experience a place fully, to really enjoy it, we need to be fully present to the place. We have to surrender our undivided attention to the experience.

When we try too hard to capture this moment for later, we loose what we could have gained in that moment. We come back without ever having made a connection with the place and the people.

I find this quite ironical, I do not live this moment so that I can live it tomorrow, and I will not live the tomorrow, because I would then be looking back at the ‘good old days’.

The good old days

And what about keeping memories? Don’t we need pictures to look back upon the good old days?

I have been thourgh phases when I would say, ‘Those were the days…” What that meant was that, ‘The days now are not as good as there were in the past.’

There are lessons to be gained and re-enforced from the past, it can be a reminder of the ways in which you did good things, had fun. But do we need to do this every day? And do we need thousands of pictures to do it?

I think reminiscing too much about the past brings us in denial of the present. The present is also good. It is just a different kind of good.

In fact, any moment is good or bad only according to the definition we give to it. When we think of the good old days, we tell our subconscious that we don’t like this moment and that we don’t think there is anything better we can do than just think about the past.

And that becomes our reality.

I don’t think that is the best way we can live. We can resolve to find the good in this moment, make the best of it, and enjoy it for it’s own worth. Otherwise, if we are just thinking of the past, doing nothing in this moment, we are as good as dead.

The present has the potential to be very beautiful, all it needs is our complete focus, our total presence.

Seeking validation

All of us like sharing our pictures with those whom we know. With the advent of FB and other social sharing sites, sharing has become even more widespread and popular. It gives a high for a few days, a sense of self worth. Then the feeling goes, and one has to repeat the process again.

It is as if people want others to validate that they are happy, it is as if they don’t believe so themselves. Deep down, they are bored and seeking freedom. One can almost sense their boredom with their regular, 5 days at job when one finds them posting pictures of their 2 days of weekend getaways, again and again.

Does it make sense to focus on a temporary solution, that only skims over the surface, rather than find ways to address the real problem itself?

Letting others in on the experience they missed.

Another reason to take pictures is to let others see what they missed. But why tell them what they missed? They missed what they missed, their are many more experiences to come in the future. Why not focus on what you can share right now?

I can see people wanting to let loved ones in on the experience they had, I can see people sharing with others the possibilities these others might not know of. But, as far as having fun is concerned, I would rather create a new and wonderful experience with others than discuss what I did and they didn’t.

But the camera is not itself a bad thing…

Taking pictures can have its advantages too. Pictures can be good pieces of art. Creating art is being totally present. Creating art is enjoying and living the moment.

They can also be used well for business purposes, to promote something, to make people think, to motivate, inspire, to make them happy, or to make them question. All the above would make sense, when they themselves are your primary purpose.


Today, unlike a decade ago, every other person has a digital camera. They can now take hundreds and thousands of pictures with ease. This is great power and has to be handled carefully. More is not always better, taking umpteen pictures mindlessly only causes disconnection, stress, and unhappiness. Few and meaningful is the way to go.

This goes along the lines of simplicity, as Richard Greg described it :

Avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance in other directions.

If you want to experience a place, leave the camera behind. Memories that are worthy of keeping will stay. They will stay etched in your mind, you will not need pictures to remind you.

Image credit: graur razvan ionut


  • richa
    December 16, 2011 - 2:49 pm | Permalink

    hehe..gud one…

  • Nilesh Kumar
    December 16, 2011 - 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Hey Buddy I like this article, got easily connected with it in many ways.

  • sujit
    December 16, 2011 - 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Really nice article.
    But I have slightly different opinion (not totally different :)). If somebody goes for an outing with a pre-mindset that he will bring back good photos to post on FB and he is not a frequent traveler then he will miss the fun. But if someone goes on outing almost every weekend or so and take photos then he gradually make a balance between clicking and enjoying. He learns when to do what. and finally he finds that clicking a great moment just doubles his enjoyment and fun. He forgets that he has to click for posting on FB. It becomes a part of fun.

    • Rahul
      December 17, 2011 - 11:58 am | Permalink

      Glad you like the article Sujit. And thanks for adding your valuable thoughts.
      I guess it’s about what one wants from the trip and whether one understands the trade-off between experiencing the place and taking pictures.
      Total connection will require total focus. At the moment one is focusing on clicking a picture, he/she is not in connection with the experience. But then, one may no be looking for the deepest connection.
      It’s a personal balance. One may take camera, have 95% of experience and 5% of taking pictures. Or one may just go to take pictures, in which case, they will totally forego the experience of the place. Or they may go in for the deepest connection with the place, in which case, they would probably want to leave the camera behind.
      None of these choices are wrong or right, just a personal preference.
      Thanks again for dropping by and adding to the topic. :)

    December 18, 2011 - 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Man need to know what is wanted in life.Having known that,focused effort in that direction could meet with better results.Few and meaningful pictures also support in that way to go.

  • Lalitha
    February 17, 2012 - 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with Sujit. A frequent traveler knows when to carry a camera and when it will be a nuisance. When someone has a photographic eye, they see things different. Its like painting a picture – you see something that others are missing – it really gives an immense pleasure; pleasure an artist gets, a sense of accomplishment.People should not share in FB unless they have the right audience. Some people can indulge in the moment 100% in spite of taking pictures. I am not talking about the sect who buys DSLRs because everyone owns one or its available for cheap during thanksgiving; not the ones who think owning a DSLR makes them a great photographer nor the ones who think they can learn after getting the gear because they have the attitude – If my friend is doing so can I? I am talking about the real photographers, the ones with an eye for it.
    I get your point too. There are people who get excited and take random shots, share albums of 70 or more pictures, utterly making no sense. Particularly if it is a baby picture, unwritten rule is – you should like them or else you are their arch rivals.
    (Disclaimer: I don’t own a DSLR :p)

  • Richa
    March 23, 2012 - 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I have really liked this article..its so true and talks of how FB and other social networking governing and changing people’s outlook towards life and thie own feelings…i have already commented once..but now wana share it wwith my friends around..i have been seeing them tht they have been clicking pictures for FB and not for their memory..

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    CommentLuv badge