A Perspective On Documenting Life

This morning, like most mornings now, I checked my phone/tablet before rolling out of bed. Is it snowing or raining enough to affect my run? Any emails requiring my immediate attention? What kind of mouthwash is Twitter gargling right now? Oh Twitter, how you constantly surprise me with the flavor of your early morning tweets. One morning I might be read a Smashing Magazine article followed by a Business Insider article followed by a Laughing Squid post. The next morning I might just skip over to Feedly.

But not today. Nope. Today, via Twitter, I stumbled across an NY Times Op-Ed piece by Sherry Turkle, The Documented Life, and was sufficiently distracted that I braved reading the comments. As you can imagine, as a life-long documenter of life, especially mine, I found most of the comments ridiculous.

I like living in a “culture of documentation”, even if that means I have to accommodate the pervasiveness of selfies and an insufferable amount of cat, dog, and baby photos. It’s true, documenting anything can disrupt “the experience”, which is exactly what Turkle writes –

“A selfie, like any photograph, interrupts experience to mark the moment. In this, it shares something with all the other ways we break up our day, when we text during class, in meetings, at the theater, at dinners with friends…. When you get accustomed to a life of stops and starts, you get less accustomed to reflecting on where you are and what you are thinking…. We don’t experience interruptions as disruptions anymore.”

I get it. I mean, if the groundwork for your perspective of time and continuity and impropriety was forged and emerged during a time when information was parsed through traditional, discrete, and time-dependent “socially” constructed experiences, of course you’d be more prone to interpreting interruptions as a disruption. However, if your perspective is less dependent on the flow of “time-dependent” continuity of experience, validated by traditional “social constructs”, then not every interruption IS a disruption.

I guess my problem with the commenters and the author is that yes, it’s true that a culture of documentation can interrupt one traditional perspective of life, yet nobody bothered digging into the idea that our culture of documentation permits another kind of perspective too, the kind where we are increasingly likely to simultaneously look forwards and backwards and reflect upon where we are.

But hey, as Turkle writes, “it’s not too late to reclaim our composure.” We just have to pimp Google Glass and make it affordable for every person on the planet.