Vincent Vega: Let me ask you something, when did you make this
decision? When you were sitting there eating that muffin?
Jules Winnfield: Yeah, I was sitting here, eating my muffin and
drinking my coffee and replaying the incident in my head, when I
had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.
We all have moments in life when things suddenly become
As part of my never-ending existential crisis that I hope is just
part of the human condition, I tend to obsess on those times when
my brain is shocked into some important realization.
And I still remember the night of January 18, 2011, when I was at
Madison Square Garden with a lady friend watching a show by the
best live performer in human history: Prince.
We were all the way up in the cheap seats, and in fact, if we were
any further from the stage, I'd have been on the roof with the
And yet for some reason, I was compelled to take photos with my
smartphone at the time -- an
(TPE:2498) Droid Incredible, which took awfully junky pictures.
It was at that point that I had an important moment of clarity.
I realized that I was taking lousy pictures of an amazing concert
and sharing them on
) instead of allowing myself to actually be immersed in the event.
And it ain't just me -- or the former me -- that's the problem.
Go to a show, any show -- and you'll see that it's smartphone mania
as people obsess over documenting the heck out of every little
thing. I'm still surprised it doesn't happen at the movies!
But there's hope on the horizon.
And her name is Zooey Deschanel.
Ms. Deschanel is not only a famous actress, but also one-half of
the musical act She & Him, one of a growing number of groups
that are turning against this generation's obsession with
documenting every last thing.
At a Toronto show, this sign was posted:
Now it could be argued that this is somewhat harsh, and even a bit
But I am officially on Team Zooey.
In the world of physics, there's an idea called the observer
effect. It means that the act of observation changes that which is
We can look at that two ways.
Maybe a singer facing a sea of camera phones performs differently.
And maybe the camera phone user's experience of what they're
observing is destroyed by the act of documentation.
When we're looking at an LCD screen with a digital representation
of what's in front of us, the sheer sensory power of the actual
thing in front of us is completely destroyed.
You just can't possibly be in the moment if you're focused on what
the moment looks like in photo or video form.
German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg said this in
outlining his Uncertainty Principle:
One can never know with perfect accuracy both of those two
important factors which determine the movement of one of the
smallest particles -- its position and its velocity. It is
impossible to determine accurately
the position and the direction and speed of a particle
at the same instant
In other words -- um, actually, in the words of
Any two variables that do not commute cannot be measured
simultaneously -- the more precisely one is known, the less
precisely the other can be known.
Well, I think that the more precisely you document something, the
less likely you are to actually feel the magic of that something.
And even if you're using something as simple as an
) iPhone, or God forbid, an iPad, you're already pushing the
These devices don't have many controls, but you still have to
decide to pick the thing up, turn on the camera, straighten the
screen, and process and share it on Instagram. The process may only
take 20 seconds, excluding the inevitable additional checks to read
people's reactions to your post, but I think that's all it takes to
distract yourself from a possibly great reality.
So just as we humans influence the direction and velocity of tiny
particles simply by observing them, we diminish the greatness of
our experiences by pushing aside the sheer feeling in the name of
observation in the form of fastidiously documenting things in
exchange for "points" on social networks.
It's just like racking up headshots in
Call of Duty
or coins in
Super Mario Bros
And this could be having a negative impact on society as a whole,
as there are some indications that social media use can lead to
depression and/or anxiety.
A study from
The University of Texas
found that "frequent Facebook interaction is associated with
greater distress directly and indirectly via a two-step pathway
that increases communication overload and reduces self-esteem."
Utah Valley University
concluded that "those who have used Facebook longer agreed more
that others were happier, and agreed less that life is fair, and
those spending more time on Facebook each week agreed more that
others were happier and had better lives."
One theme that I had never thought of but which seems obvious now
is that our social media profiles are essentially PR operations
where we maybe have a little too much control over how the world
We are Photoshopping our lives.
The same way it's easy to feel fat and ugly after looking at a
magazine cover, it's easy to feel miserable after observing
everyone else's carefully curated awesomeness.
I realize that I'm being very gloomy and ignoring the many
positives of social networks, some of which I actually adore (I'm
looking at you Tumblr!), but we should also acknowledge the
Of course, if the modern world is all about "Likes," maybe I'm
wrong and things really are perfect out there in Internet-land.