Turn off the machine

Last week, I opened my camera roll, searching for a picture I had taken back in June. Although my photo library consists of thousands of images, I was unfazed by that fact and eagerly began hunting for the memory.

I knew the picture was somewhere. I was aware of its existence. Despite my patchy recollection of that summer day, I remembered taking the photo itself.

“Piece of cake to find,” I figured. My fingers directed their way toward the image’s location on the camera roll, violently rubbing against the screen almost as if I was rushing to find it.

As I scrolled, I noticed thousands of memories flash by my index finger. I remembered some of these moments and had forgotten about others but, regardless, there was record of almost every moment of my life.

I eventually became distracted looking through the memories I had collected over the years. There were so many moments to recall.

Although I should have enjoyed the nostalgia of reliving such fun times, I was surprised to instead discover within those pictures a haunting enigma.

In that camera roll, I saw the privacy of myself and others vanish. I noticed my friends who rarely, if ever, consented to be photographed by me. I spotted strangers in the backgrounds who were likely unaware of being in the pictures. How hypocritical of me to despise being photographed yet remain so willing to photograph others, knowing fully well that preservation of a moment counteracts confidentiality.

In that camera roll, I saw vanity overtake the minds of unsuspecting victims, many of whom traded their presentness for photogeneity in hopes of looking their best. Our imperfections give us substance but, nevertheless, they desired to look flawless.

Most significantly, in that camera roll, I saw reality shift as the watchful eyes of my camera looked down on the world. I think that explains why photos always appear slightly different from real life. It’s almost as if the click of a shutter temporarily disturbs the fabric of the universe.

In that camera roll, genuine experiences fell to their death. Peoples’ priorities shifted from embracing the moment to acquiring the perfect snapshot, often at the expense of others.

Everyone subconsciously felt that they were being watched, almost like victims of a totalitarian government’s surveillance, facing the threat of being caught off–guard at any given moment.

Most horrifying of all, people were willingly continuing the perpetration of their own oppression, something so voluntary yet so enslaving.

Nobody could see the paranoia and perfectionism that was slowly creeping into their minds. Photography was proving itself to be a silent yet invasive demon.

Suddenly, I found myself yearning to return to a simpler world, free of modern technology’s shackles. Such a time seemed so liberating and manageable.

Looking through these photos was nauseating. They were so numerous and ample that they seemed to lack any meaning, almost as if they were homeless with nowhere to go.

All of my pictures were just so pointless.

“We can’t go back,” my thoughts cried as I experienced a striking epiphany. “We’re too far gone.”

I was stressed over the conundrum these images presented not just to me, but to the entirety of our oblivious society. 

In that camera roll, I saw the world burn, engulfed deep in the flames of meaninglessness and nihilism. I felt suffocated under the ungovernable pile of photos that, despite belonging to me, felt disingenuous to myself.

When I decided I wanted to clear the wasteland of pictures I had created, I realized I was helpless. Although these images were trivial, I somehow felt an emotional attachment to them. Deleting anything from my photo library seemed destructive and, as a result, I lacked the strength to do so.

I was too feeble to break the chains of technology.

I eventually realized that these were not just photographs. They were moments plagiarized from reality that were contributing to a massive, brutal machine of toxicity and misery.

There was no escape and, unfortunately, there is no escape. Nowadays, everything is so immortalized for little good reason and people rarely see the problem with such a predicament.

We live in an environment of voluntary surveillance and, regardless of who contributes to the problem, everyone’s mindfulness is at risk.

The world is not meant to be photographed — it’s meant to be experienced. If we can no longer put our devices down and enjoy a moment, then the moments we experience become hollow.

I never found the picture.

Look up, keep your eyes open and, please, turn off the machine.

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