CT MUSING: Are you a smartphone and Instagram addict?

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CT MUSING: Are you a smartphone and Instagram addict?

Maybe it's time to disconnect for a while

By Enid Parker

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Published: Sat 14 May 2016, 4:15 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Aug 2016, 7:01 PM

I was presented with my first camera, a Minolta Riva AF35, in the early 1990s. Like other amateur teenage shutterbugs I became eager to document the myriad hues of college life. Much like today, photographs then had the power to inspire both happiness and disappointment ('How could you cut my head off there?' 'Why are my eyes red?' 'Why is my face blurry?') but the excitement of developing a  roll of film, a process over which we had no control whatsoever, remains unmatched till date.
Today, I can take a bad picture and alter it in a matter of seconds. Today, that Minolta lies forgotten, among other relics like hand-written journals, cards and letters.
Now I find myself glued to a smartphone every night, scrolling through my Instagram feed and unable to disconnect even when I realise I'm staring, bleary eyed, at the wedding album of a complete stranger, or laughing soundlessly at Internet memes I wouldn't find half as amusing in the morning!
For me, the novelty of taking a photograph in the pre-selfie era has been replaced by an addiction to a barrage of images on a daily basis.
Phones have come a long way since the '80s, when a red rotary dial device used to co-exist next to a Yellow Pages directory at my old home in Karama. If you managed to make a call from a phone like that without attracting the attention of the entire household (and sometimes the neighbours too), consider yourself a genius. We had to resort to running to the shops in Karama market, then proceed to talk in code under the eagle eyes of suspicious salesmen (I still don't know how something like 'Get me that Physics notebook tomorrow' could have translated to 'Meet me near the Thomsun store at 5pm').
I guess in the pre-cellphone era all teenagers had to exercise some ingenuity.
I passed by one of these very shops recently, recognising immediately the greying salesman who nodded and grunted as if to say "Ah, I remember you pesky kids from back in the day."
Back in the day. When the only pastime 'pesky' kids had was playing outdoors, reading books and comics, or watching cartoons on TV. Do I miss those days? Sure. I miss the innocent satisfaction we found in a limited amount of information, the simple joy we derived from just being with friends, without feeling the need to document or analyse each and every moment of our day. Even when the Minolta came into my life, I'd like to believe I wasn't obsessed with documenting almost every minute of my existence.
Even accessing stars' pictures in those days required effort. I remember saving up pocket money as a teenager to buy a magazine with a centrespread poster of Johnny Depp - my first ever celebrity crush. Today one can get pictures of that kind in a matter of seconds.
Times have changed, and I've changed with them. Maybe I should delete the Instagram app from my phone. Or I could get a vintage camera and re-live what it was like to put an effort into creating photographs. But perhaps the best way forward would be to spend more time looking away from my phone and at the real world for a change. (enid@khaleejtimes.com)

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