Hanging Out

Halen Doughty

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But is it really? Nowadays, I don't think a picture is worth much of anything.

Too many of us are living our lives through the screen of an iPhone. We have more Facebook friends than real friends. We value social media likes above actual relationships. We spend more time taking pictures of our meals than eating them. I'm starting to feel like it's become an obsession.

I spent the weekend in Gulf Shores, Ala., at Hangout Fest. To put it simply, it was incredible. Two days on the beach with tens of thousands of people watching dozens of bands perform is pretty much the experience of a lifetime. That is, if you take the time to experience it.

I hate to break it to you, but life happens in the real world, not on Facebook. I think people spend so much time trying to capture a moment that they don't get to enjoy it. I'll admit, on Friday I too was worried about filming the performances. I wasted so much time trying to get my camera to focus through the strobe lights and smoke that I even missed a couple of songs by a band I really enjoy.

When I looked back at the photos and videos the next day, I realized how big of a waste that was. Let's be honest, even through the awesome lens of a new iPhone, the pictures sucked. They were obviously no where near an accurate depiction of what that moment looked life in real life.

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why we bother to take all these pictures, especially of things like this. They're blurry through clouds of smoke and fog machines. The videos are mostly full of people screaming along to the songs, so you can't even hear the actual band. And along the top of the shot, all you can see is a sea of cellphones in the air.

That's why I decided that Saturday, the day I was looking forward to several bands I love, I wasn't going to take any pictures of the performances. I watched three of my favorite bands, and I don't have a single photo or video to show for it.

But let me tell you what I do have.

I have memories. Because I wasn't worried about how my pictures came out, I got to see the moment in real life. I didn't watch Halsey through my phone. I saw her with my own eyes. Seeing her command the crowd and singing along to every word is something I'll remember forever, even without Timehop reminding me that I was there.

Most importantly, I had an experience. I lived it, and because I wasn't trying to post about it on social media, I was truly present. When The Chainsmokers came on stage, I didn't care about getting a good picture of them. I only cared about enjoying every single second of their show. I danced the whole time and sang along with them. It's amazing how much more you can catch in real life when you aren't focused on catching it on your phone.

The rapper Logic even said something about it during his set. When the cameras panned across the crowd, it looked like a commercial for iPhones. Thousands of faces were hidden behind phones, even as Logic called on people to put them down. He told people to stop filming and enjoy the moment. He sounded a little sad, and maybe even annoyed, as he said there's like 90,000 people filming and not living this right now.

When was the last time you were actually in the moment? Can you recall watching your child's dance recital or soccer game without taking a dozen photos trying to get one decent one for Facebook? How often do you actually enjoy time with family and friends without grabbing your phone everytime it vibrates? Even if you aren't holding your phone in your hand, how often do you leave the house without it?

Why do we insist on photographing and posting every aspect of our lives? Clearly, it's to show people who were not there what we are doing. So why do we value the opinions of our followers so much that we are willing to sacrifice a moment for a like?

It's time to put down the phones, at least for a moment, to enjoy life. Eat that five star meal without posting it on Instagram. Hangout with your friends without taking a selfie. Go to an event without checking in on Facebook. Life is more than likes.

Let me tell you, the real world is a lot prettier when you're not watching it through a screen.

Follow Halen on Twitter: @LikeVanHalen