Yesterday, Pope Francis visited my neighborhood. Well, to be accurate, he drove up in the alley behind my neighborhood in his Fiat, jumped into the Pope-mobile, and drove back down the alley from whence he came. I and about 50 other neighbors gathered on a nearby lawn and were treated to close up, “backstage” access to His Holiness. I’m not Catholic, but seeing the head of any state is pretty cool. The problem? I didn’t really see him.
As I stood waiting for the pontiff to arrive, I could hear the cheers of the crowd gathered on the nearby street. When I saw his Fiat coming down the alley, I, along with every other neighbor, had my camera ready. Given that I was surrounded by folks, I had to hold my camera aloft just a bit to get a decent angle. As he drove by in the Fiat, and, when he came by in the Pope-mobile, I held the camera button down, taking approximately 60 photographs in the span of 5 seconds, combined. From those, I’m sure I’ll cull a decent shot. I haven’t really looked yet, a bit out of disgust. You see, as the Pope-mobile pulled away, I realized that I had looked at my phone the entire time. Never once did I see the Pope, straight on, with my own eyes. Even a dying Darth Vader had the sense to tell Luke to take his mask off to look upon him with his own eyes!
As I walked away from my Pope encounter, I was struck by the realization that it had been more important for me to get a photograph of the Pope than to actually see him myself. My entire encounter was literally through the lens of technology. Perhaps even more disheartening was the realization that my complete engrossment in technology was subconscious. I didn’t weigh the pros and cons; I instinctively resorted to experiencing the Pope through technology. I never thought to put the phone away and just be in the moment. Soak it in. Take a picture in your brain.
It’s just another reminder that technology isn’t the unqualified good we seem to want it to be. Sometimes, more data, more pixels, more bytes, more whatever is just more. Not better. Just more. It doesn’t always enhance life; it can take you out of your life. Out of the moment. Technology can enhance some moments, for sure. It just shouldn’t be the moment.
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. You know what it’s not worth? One really good glance.