Coming to the Dark Side

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At no time do I feel so old as when I attempt to learn something new about technology.

Two years ago, I got my very first texting plan and a phone with an actual keyboard on it. I know, welcome to the 2000s, right? At the time, pretty much everyone on my contacts list had already been texting for ages and were now relying on autocorrect and voice features. Hold on, there, guys, my phone still has buttons on it.

My husband got himself a sweet smartphone, and not long after that, he got himself a tablet for his birthday. He’s way more hip than me. The year previous, I was super excited for my plain old Kindle Touch. Because I like to read books, and that thing still reads like paper. And trust me, it even took some significant convincing and in-person comparison shopping to get me the Touch over the original version.

And last week, my husband had finally had enough of his phone forgetting that it was still a phone (not so “smart” if you ask me, but whatever), and he upgraded to a new one, since it was time to renew our contract anyway. Funny how that works out, isn’t it? Or maybe not. Anyway, we found that the old phone, even though it sometimes didn’t make sounds or randomly entered car-docking mode, which it technically isn’t even supposed to have, would still operate like a tablet using wi-fi even without being connected to the wireless phone network or 3G or whatever the heck they’re calling that everywhere available telecommunications feature nowadays.

So. Even though the idea was to use it on occasion to occupy one or more of the children when necessary, I kind of started playing with it and decided to adopt it for myself. And not just for playing Robot Unicorn Attack, either.

You see, for several months, I’ve been eyeing up and pricing new cameras. Both the fancy DSLR variety and the teeny point-and-shoot types. Because my ancient point-and-shoot is slow and broken and has a battery that can support a few videos and one or two flash photos and promptly dies. And because my DSLR still has a broken flash, doesn’t shoot video at all and is a little bit more limited than I’d like if I ever actually get serious about my photography.

But let’s get honest for a moment. Will I ever get serious about photography? Maybe. But now is definitely not the time. I have two small children and several other related and unrelated activities going on right now. I don’t have time to re-learn what I may have once known about f-stops and exposures. And I really don’t have time to sit on my computer and mess around in Photoshop for hours on end to get that one shot just right. So, for the most part, I’ve been satisfied with what comes right off the camera, but for those times when I’d like to play a little, enter James’ old smart-phone.

It shoots faster than my old point-and-shoot, but not quite as immediate as my DSLR. It takes video. The photo quality is at least better than the p&s if not also the DSLR. There are filter effects and photo editing tools available with a quick touch or swipe of the finger, and it’s tiny enough to sit comfortably and easily within reach in my purse or pocket. Everything I was looking for in one or two new cameras with wi-fi to boot.

The thing is, there’s a reason I’ve been resistant to the smartphone/camera for so long. And it has nothing to do with the technology itself, but everything to do with my own hubris.

You see, I fancy myself an artist of some quality. I’d like to think of my photographs as more than merely snapshots. And with the ease of use and wide availability of camera-phones and smart-phone photo applications, it feels like everyone fancies themselves the next great photojournalist and even the good shots and interesting art get lost in a sea of amateurs.

Because of this, I have been fighting the urge even to just download and use Instagram, for example, on my husband’s tablet, of which he generously shares use with his family, myself included. Because I didn’t want to participate in a technology that cheapens my art in such a way.

But as I sat down and started being truthful with myself not only about my limitations, but also about the purpose of the technology that’s out there, I realized that apps like Instagram are likely programmed with people like me in mind. Do the amateurs also congregate there? Sure, but join me at an open mic back when I was out on that scene, and you’d also find similar ratios among in-person poets. And I’m coming to the conclusion that this is ultimately a good thing.

So if I look at Instagram and similar sites like a local cafe’s open mic night, I think it might end up doing more to inspire me than bring me down. Sure, I’ll keep using it to take cute snapshots of my kids, family and friends, but with the quick tools available, I might also get a chance to make some pretty cool art in the process. And even if it’s not the ideal way, it gives me one more way to keep pursuing art and exercising those creative muscles that have suffered some slight atrophy over the last several years.

So maybe all this newfangled technology stuff has a place in my life, after all. And on the plus side, my fancy new camera ended up not costing me a single dime. As long as I share it with my little guys every once in awhile, too.

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And also? I can put a mustache on EVERYONE!

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