If a tree falls in the forest but no one posts it on Instagram…OR, Yes, it happened even if it wasn’t on social media

I was recently at a wedding where the bride and groom had the nerve to request that the no one post any record of the wedding to social media networks until after they themselves had been able to post the first pictures of their event.

They also had the bold audacity to request that no one take any pictures during the actual wedding ceremony to help everyone be more “present” during the event.

The small gasps, titters and whispers that were heard amongst the guests reflected what most of us would expect: What an unusual request to make of one’s guests at a momentous event in the Age of Social Media.

Or perhaps more accurately, we should call it: the Age of It Never Happened if it Wasn’t Posted on Social Media.

Obviously, one can never truly mandate that another be completely present at any event – clearly, full presence is a bit of a long shot short of the ability to exercise full mind control over another. (“Google Mind Control” – coming soon, right after they make Google Glass a commercial success, no doubt.)

And when told about the no-photos-please-be-present request, one of my friends pointed out, “But what if I wanted to think about what happened on Game of Thrones while the ceremony was happening?? Then I wouldn’t have been fully present, would I?”

Now, my goal is not to start any sort of flame-wars over the social and intellectual importance of Game of Thrones versus focusing on the event at hand (because I know I will lose that argument), but I’ll admit that my friends, the bride and groom, did have a point. 

A very good point.

A very good point made me frankly a smidge uncomfortable.

The thought of placing my iPhone back in my handbag for the 21.4-minute ceremony made me slightly nervous and edgy.  My inner whiney ‘tween protested in my head almost instantaneously, “But how will I take a picture of the bridesmaids as they line up in their matching dresses with pretty flowers? And what about the bride? I MUST get that blurry, slanted, over-people’s-heads shot of her being walked down the aisle by her father that I will then slap a lacey frame around after putting a sepia filter on right before sharing with The Interweb! I simply must!! The world needs my skills using preset filters! “

Nevermind that there was already an official wedding photographer with real camera equipment.
Let’s not mention the fact that no one had actually told me they really needed ME to take my amateur shots with a phone camera.

Let’s be totally clear why my inner child was chafing at being told to put the damn phone down:

These pictures were for me and me only. It was my right, as a guest, to snap away at the event to show that I was there. To put on my 2000+ picture camera roll on my phone never to be looked at again. To share on Facebook-a-gram with 594 of my loosely-termed “friends,” to fill their streams with yet one more photo among the 999+ photos they see every day and promptly forget about.

The ability for me and everyone else attending to snap and share the event is what gives it meaning for everyone, right? Or….maybe it’s just for me only.  I mean, how could I expect to be validated as an interesting person with a fun life and exciting friends and a loving family and cute cats if I can’t publish them to the world in an ever-growing stream of mostly drivel? (And I take full responsibility for the drivel I contribute. Except I’d like to think that every once in a while I post something witty and hilarious. At least, it is in my head.)

And let’s be honest here — I get soooo busy attempting to share my experience with people who aren’t part of it and likely don’t even care about it, that I forget the reason I’m there in the first place — to be able to be present to witness and participate in and experience a very special event for people I care about that demarcates an important event in their lives. For some reason, they felt that they wanted me to be with them for this day along with many other people who have a meaning in their real world lives. They created a place for us all to be together with them for it. (And seriously, if they’d wanted to make this an event  available to the general public, they could have live-streamed it. Apparently, they felt that wasn’t something they wanted.)

In honoring my friends’ request to be truly present, I realized that I’m honoring not only them and the experience they’re creating for all of us but that I’m actually truly honoring myself. For what actually gives life its sweetest meaning is being in that very moment-to-moment experience we all seem so keen to capture and share…and while I totally believe that it’s wonderful that we have the technology to snap photos of the event and hold on to those key moments, there’s something almost avoidant and protective about wanting to spend the duration of an event buried in our phone, checking in, tweeting, photo-posting, and basically sharing it all away, as if it’s difficult to just be in the moment, being present with other people in the world and enjoying it as it is happening.

I for one have been guilty of being that avoidant, of wanting to be in the moment but of being ambivalent about enjoying it too much. This can’t be blamed on social media or the latest connected gadgets or our highly-multitasked technology-laden world; it’s a life approach that goes much deeper. I remember my father gently telling me as a child, as I was multitasking on multiple projects and homework and just doing-doing-doing, that I needed to stop and smell the flowers.  

Not to stop and photograph the flowers and then post them to something called Instagram. To smell the flowers.

Because it’s not possible to smell the flowers through a social networking site or an app. At least not yet….

So thank you, Phil and Julia, for reminding me to stop and smell all the flowers at your wedding, Which I didn’t literally do, despite some pictures people may or may not have posted on Facebook of the reception.

Dedicated to Phil and Julia, who dared to ask me to be Present as well as present at their wedding. Congratulations, you two crazy kids! 

Millennial Real-Time Lessons Learned

by Guest Author Amy Kweskin  –  

As a full time instructor in the Fashion Marketing and Management department at The Art Institute of California – San Francisco, I present and translate the ins and outs of social media marketing and online advertising. With an MA in Arts Administration and a successful career as a strategic planner to non-profit arts and culture organizations, I use to wonder how in the world I could be teaching in a fashion department. Thankfully, I have been able to translate my cultural management expertise to the business of fashion. The bottom-line is that working with creative businesses makes you flexible and solution-focused. This is the learning I pass on to my students.

Frankly, my millennial students are often the ones teaching me. What I’ve realized is that they are on the bleeding edge of social media usage and what I present to them is the history of and strategies for successful campaigns so that they can make intelligent choices about how to reach their audiences.

Although it may be a teaching challenge, what I love the most is that it is almost impossible to create a lesson plan in this ever-changing world of social media and online advertising. For example, I was teaching my students how to purchase ads on Facebook at the start of a four-hour class. As they attempted to grasp CPC and CPM options, all along blaming me for the lack of simplicity, we took a 30-minute class break. When we returned and logged back on to Facebook the ad-purchasing interface had changed. This was one of those learning opportunities.

“Everyone, welcome to the world of online advertising where everything and anything can change without a moment’s notice. Imagine if this was your full time job and you had to explain to your manager or client that all of your advertising planning had to be thrown out the window and that your budgeting model was useless.”

Today, a recent grad stopped in to say hello during my entrepreneurship class. She asked, “Can I get your materials on Google Adwords? I’m trying to get a job.” “Sure”, I told her, “but my materials are six months old and probably useless.”

All I can hope is that my millennial students will devour real-time learning opportunities and reflect on the marketing acumen that we discussed in classes. Yes, the world of online social media marketing and advertising may be continuously changing, but at least best practices of strategy development will consistently provide these budding fashion marketers with a foundation from which to grow, intelligently.