I am on hiatus from social media at the moment.
I have been soaking in too much information the past few weeks, absorbing both the positive and negative, oscillating between hope and despair. I have always wanted to leave these toxic online spaces but work prevented me from doing so because I needed to be in-the-know, had to follow the trends and flow of conversation. But lately, whenever I try to think my own thoughts, I hear the chatter of other voices in my head, the judgmental stream of consciousness of the collective, the opinions of contacts I have not seen in how many years.
What do I think? Hard to produce any good output when there’s so much input overstimulating and short-circuiting my brain.
So now, I am emptying myself, creating a space where my own voice can echo – to listen and rediscover harmony in the cacophony.
And what does film photography have to do with it exactly?
Nothing, if only to show the moments I wish to remember. I have been spending quite a lot for this hobby; film rolls are not cheap and my dad has gently chided me for indulging in this obsolete medium. The other day, I scoured the internet for a point-and-shoot touted by some vloggers as the best little companion for their everyday photography. I got frustrated because I couldn’t find an available model anywhere – Facebook, Instagram, Shopee, or Lazada. Finally, a little past midnight, I sent my dad a message via Viber and asked if he knew of the camera.
“The old one?” he messaged two minutes later. “Yes, we have one.” I got the camera the following day, plus the newer model that came after it.
While my dad keeps a small shrine of film cameras – older models he had collected from his parents – in his office, he didn’t understand why I wanted to use such antiques in this day and age. He told me that digital cameras and editing programs can help you achieve the same effect. Why spend on rolls of film, on cheap plastic bodies, on developing and scanning negatives?
It’s funny when I think about it from his perspective – look at this millennial go crazy over an artifact from our time. But I realize it’s hard to explain to my dad who is absent from social media, who has been cynical and skeptical of these online networking sites even before the rise of Facebook and Instagram. He cautioned us about putting so much of ourselves online, being so visible and accessible to people. At the time, of course, we scoffed and shrugged it off; the benefits outweighed the dangers, which frankly felt non-existent and hard to imagine since our pages felt more like chat rooms populated by friends and inane content.
Who knew that it would grow into something far more complex and nefarious, affecting relationships and raising issues as cybersecurity, mental health, and world politics?
But this isn’t about those heady issues. I don’t have the energy nor the capacity to talk about it at length. This is about film and why, to my dad’s discombobulation, I am so enamored with it despite the more convenient alternatives. And I don’t want to overthink and over-explain it because my answer can simply be just because. I like it. Period. But I know there’s more to it, and as I’m not overly occupied with social media and I actually have time on my hands, I will try to put my thoughts into words.
For someone like me who grew up with digital cameras and smartphones, recording life as it happens can sometimes take the place of actually living through the moments. Quick, take the shot before it’s too late. To be at the beck and call of time, to immortalize a second or a minute in a viewable memory can be both exhilarating and quite tiring. And yes, I could have stopped and put the camera down but I was also having fun; I was enamored with the magic of instant frames, having the capacity and storage for life’s best moments.
Social media made it a little more exciting, providing instant gratification and feedback to your posts, rewarding witticisms, boldness, The Extraordinary Life, and the desire to be seen. Frankly, we all want to be seen. At least I know I do. But lately, I’ve come to realize that who we see online is but a construct, just a perpetuation of what we want others to see.
The other week, I posted something that felt true to me, a story that struck a chord, but a passive aggressive post by a friend that seemed to take a jab at my subject matter made me so doubtful and fearful of what I had put out into the internet. The more I thought about it, the more I felt crippled by self-doubt and I contemplated on deleting the post. So just the fact that we edit ourselves so much without actually realizing it, that we modify our behaviors, thoughts, and perceptions based on what we interact with on a day-to-day basis is scary.
Film photography has been my way to control those impulses, to find the balance between recording life while still living through it. Memory is malleable, truth is relative. And the obsessive desire to record by the minute, to the very second, is never any assurance that it will be remembered the way it happened. Because life registers differently to different people. We remember beauty and pain in varying degrees. We express truths that sometimes sound like lies, and tell lies that seem true. It’s a lesson I am finding hard to swallow. Because it can be confusing and disheartening to realize that the world as we know it is not the Absolute, not the gold standard.
But in those moments we just have to pause and listen. Let the noise quiet down.
And if you’re ready to know a truth that is different from yours, then here is mine. Captured in frames – limited, imperfect, extremely ordinary.