Unified in social media but segragated in reality

The mobile device has culturally transformed us as a society. This week I decided to visit Crown Street Mall’s food court and observe the interactions of individuals with electronic devices particularly mobile phones. For an hour I sat and watched several individuals sit down with fellow friends, family members or just alone to consume afternoon tea. In that hour I was astonished to have recorded only two people that did not interact with some form of electronic device, coincidentally they were of the older generation and were simply enjoying their afternoon tea.

I was very discrete with my research, I sat in a quiet corner and took a series of images that did not display the individuals I was observing in a negative light but simply coincided with my research and presented them using their chosen form of technology. ‘The Ethics of Street Photography’ by Joerg Colberg reinforces the importance of applying ethics when capturing public images. Colberg indicates it is important to respect the wishes of someone who does not want their photograph promoted publicly, however he also states “it’s the photographic community’s task to educate the public about what they’re doing. In other words, instead of posturing about what they can do, street photographers better tell the public how what they’re doing is not only mindful of the public’s concerns, but also constitutes an important and valuable artistic practice that enriches not just the practitioners’ but everybody else’s lives”. Colberg does not believe street photography is unethical but society’s perception of street photography is changing therefore it poses both a threat and opportunity for photographers and the meanings behind their images. Evidently, I believe the following blog represents each individual in an ethical manner, they are not portrayed in a discriminatory light, but rather coincide and reinforce my main ideas and points in terms of technological disconnections. Furthermore Darren Rowse emphasises this in his post ‘Street Photography Exploitative vs. Respect’ suggesting that once street photography begins discriminating individuals or places deliberately the art becomes ethically questionable.

Additionally the Thailand based video “disconnect to connect” seamlessly defines the following report. The video indicates what we miss as individuals when we let our portable technology inflict our general lifestyles, such as spending time with family or exploring the world that surrounds us. As I observed the tiny food court perimeter I was shocked with the percentage of technology present in this tiny space alone. You don’t honestly realise the level technology plays within our lives until you stop for a moment and observe it in its natural habitat. It’s become a safety blanket for several of us and an integrated part of our communication network without us even knowing it.

The first two individuals I observed were two construction workers with a large age gap between them, even though they were partaking in a conversation with one another they were also on their phone frequently. As I continued to watch they would place their phone down on the table but after a few minutes they would touch it, or play with it, ensuring it was still present. I found it sad actually, these two men couldn’t even enjoy each others presence without their phone being subconsciously on their mind.


What I found interesting was those alone were on their phone less than the individuals with friends, isn’t that strange? There were two older individuals simply enjoying their afternoon tea with not a form of technology in sight. This may be because of the generational gap and distancing themselves from the online communication network.


Why do we feel it’s necessary to look at our technological devices when we are with a group of individuals who are willingly to dedicate time to us, to have a conversation with us in reality not the social media sphere. Wouldn’t you say it is rude? Even absurd that we would feel the need to look at our devices for entertainment when there are living, breathing individuals sitting right in front of us eager to talk, to express interest in our lives.

Apparently not, one boy was constantly looking at his phone as his friend attempted to have a conversation with him, while another girl was listening to music while eating afternoon tea with her friends. I think the man talking on his mobile device as his son just sat and aimlessly looked out the window was probably the most confronting. The look on the sons face indicated disappointment as he waited for his father to finish his conversation that probably lasted at least 10 minutes. Although the phone call could have been important, it still shows how little we respect each others time in reality.




Furthermore even a couple felt the need to look at their phones when having a cute, afternoon tea date, especially the male who frequently browsed his phone while his girlfriend was eating. As I continued to observe I realised how much of a necessity our phones have become within our lives. Those waiting for food, alone could not simply go five minutes without needing to entertain themselves or look busy with their phone as they waited. As I said before it has become a safety blanket within our lives, but a dangerous one. It has completely transformed the way we communicate in reality and is causing distance rather than unity with the people who make the effort, not those on social media. At the end of the day those sitting right in front of us are who matter most, but we seem to be disregarding that for our online presence. Whether it’s stalking celebrities, friends or simply looking at our online feed, we need to step back as a society, place down the phone and value each others company.



We need to think realistically for one minute, those sitting in front of us, those living, breathing humans are the ones who matter most. They make the effort beyond the social media sphere, so don’t dedicate your time to the ones that simply live within your phone, because at the end of the day they stay there.


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