Smartphones Outside: A Debate


There’s nothing quite like the rush of finding yourself in just the right spot with 10 minutes of perfect light, knowing the picture you are taking on your phone is going to look great on the Internet. But at the same time, there’s also nothing quite like sitting back and soaking in the magic unfolding right in front of you. Whether it’s better to document every moment of life or to simply live it, is a tough question now more than ever before.

The benefits of the Internet and smartphones inevitably come with new dilemmas like this. Imagine the days without cameras and the Internet in our pockets. In these simpler times, there was no option to instantaneously document our lives, but now we flood the Internet with little life experiences shared through a few touches on our smartphones. Innovative? Yes. We now have access to a thorough database of human experience. Yet, this constant documenting can seriously reduce the power of experiencing your own life as it happens.

A personal and communal debate comes out of this: should you bring your phone/camera outside with you? Most people I’ve talked to agree that being outdoors without technology enhances the experience. Freshman Zac O’Neal, returning from his 2 a.m. start on the Pfeifferhorn earlier in the day says, “I think the overall quality of the experience improves if you focus on where you are. For me, at least, I go outside to be outside and experience nature, and part of that is to get away from technology.”

When it comes to phones and adventures, it’s all about balance. If you enjoy taking photos and posting to social media like I do, for every trip you document, consider taking a trip without posting anything online. My motive for going outdoors is often for self-reflection, but being focused on a phone or camera and how many thumbs up I can get takes me away from this solitary peacefulness.

Is it possible that those who don’t post every time actually enjoy it more? O’Neal might agree.

“I think that a large portion of people spend a lot of the time they are outdoors looking at their phone and posting on Snapchat,” O’Neal said. “If you’re going outside just to take photos you’re kinda missing the point.” You will get far more from the moment than any viewer swiping past your photo on their feed.

As humans, it is only natural for us to want to share our stories and hear others’ in return. A story over a campfire with friends is the classic storytelling medium, and maybe this is what we should stick with when we want to tell our friends about the gnarly hike we went on last weekend. It’s simpler and perhaps the most satisfying in the end rather than vying for likes on the internet. But, having a picture or two only for yourself to look back on to help you remember a trip you went on years in the past is probably just fine, too. It’s your call in the end, personally I don’t see myself stopping posting on Instagram anytime soon, but it’s important to constantly remind myself why I’m really outside.

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