Friday, 9 November 2018

The Lookers

With my sincere apologies to Melanie Safka and her song, “Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma”

Look what they've done with my park, Ma
Look what they've done with my park
Well they made it a backdrop for selfies
And turned it upside down
Look what they've done with my park

You may need to go get grandpa to help you with the song reference, it does after all date back to days of yore, when even I was young. 

For fun I looked up the web cam at the Visitor Centre in Algonquin Park, this is one of the few years we have not been able to spend a few fall days in the park, so to make myself feel worse about not being able to get away thought I would take a quick look.  What I saw was nothing unusual, people heading out on the deck that overlooks the park behind the centre. I have been out on that deck many times myself, I noticed a difference, a large portion of those who headed onto the deck seemed to be more interested in seeing themselves than the surrounding park.

The procedure seemed to be head out, spin around back to the park, adjust pose and clothing, fix hair, arrange any others involved in the enterprise, take selfie(s).

Step two check that you are shown in best light with the background just as you had envisioned it, if not repeat step one until you have ‘the’ shot.

Next you may think is to go back over to the railing and take at least a passing glance at the scenery arrayed before you while facing it, this it seems is not logical, the park has at this point served its purpose, background. No, the next step is to hustle back into the building never looking back, leaving one to speculate that the highlight of the trip is not actually being there but getting pictures posted so everyone will know you were. Even more importantly increase the volume of traffic your post has driven to your site (web not camp), blog or, well you know, with a bit of luck you might go viral.

It is good to get people into parks as it should help them experience the natural world and  to an increased appreciation, leading to a desire to care for and protect it. The thing about being selfie driven is that there is no experience of the place, it is simply backdrop in an ongoing story (theirs), to be replaced in an hour, or a day but change it must, traffic is fickle and must be driven. (there is a phrase that would not have made sense when the song was written) The entire experience could be replaced by Photoshop and a Google search, or one of those backgrounds’ photographers use, just roll it out when you need it. All they want is something new to fill in the background, the rest is irrelevant, and they remain unconnected, the rest could disappear, as long as there is background  they will never know the difference.

After I wrote this, I saw a story about a group looking to raise funds for the care of a historical building, and they said one of the difficulties of preservation was “Trying to turn people who stare into people who care.” Very much the same thing, the need to get people to move past casually passing through to involvement, or at the very least interest in the continued existence of those things that serve as the backdrop. 

My hope is that when passing through these places that when/if you stop, make it more than background, take a moment, or many, soak in your surroundings, even learn about them. Seeing them only as a setting for pictures has it all upside down, yes it makes awesome background, but they are so much more.

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