Christmas Portraits From Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, people are unusually obsessed with using their smart phones to document their lives by taking pictures of everything- performances, scenery, outings, food.  I have been fascinated with the local Chinese people taking pictures  in front of elaborate Christmas decorations all over Hong Kong (some of these decorations are just plain weird– almost like Tim-Burton weird but not quirky enough).  This is a meta-documentation of my life in Hong Kong, through other people’s pictures:

A young couple having their picture taken standing in front of bizarre Christmas  decoration in Causeway Bay.

After posting this picture on Facebook, are they going to look at it again?

Our phones are altering our memory and how we interact with the world.  Since we have tools to capture our lives quickly and easily, we now live in a state of distracted amnesia, oscillating between the Instagram and Facebook apps on our smart phones.   Who needs to remember special moments when we can take a picture of everything and anything and post them onto the collective memory… umm, I mean, Facebook?   Look how early we start indoctrinating our young:

The beginning of a digitally enabled amnesia.  Age 5.

The beginning of a digitally enabled amnesia. Age 5.

Remember back in the days when films and development of films cost money, we were more cautious about creating images?  Those days seem like a lifetime ago.  Our parents have bound albums of old photographs in the attic and we occasionally look at them.  At least with a photo album, we can just open it and browse.  “Oh, look, there’s me when I was 5 covered in jam!  How cute!”   And when our parents took those pictures, they took them with the intention of looking at them, together, and remembering.  When I look at people taking pictures today in HK, it’s hard to imagine that they have the same purpose.  By the time our children are grown, how would they retrieve old digital images from a 30 year-old portable hard drive?!?!   Our children will be inundated with digital trash in the form of hard drives…  of selfies.

Future attics will be filled with hard drives with selfies.

Selfies: trash in the digital and physical realms.

Asians are famous for taking pictures of the food they eat.  Only after taking the perfect picture, posting it on Facebook/sending it to their friends via Line, can they enjoy the food before them.   Apparently though, we enjoy food more if we don’t Instagram it.  Let’s regain our lives by not obsessively documenting our mundane lives with our smart phones.  Let’s teach our children to remember special moments by telling them a story.  Let’s not be so narcissistic, and if we must, let’s spend that energy pampering our loved ones.   Why not attach the selfie in an email and write a proper letter to that special someone in your life?  We will be happier and actually live our lives to remember each passing moment when we are not preoccupied with getting the perfect Instagram.

I propose an Instagram/Facebook moratorium.  I’ve started already.