This weekend, when my roommates and I elected to launch water balloons from our second-story balcony in Fort Sanders, it wasn't enough to simply shoot them out over the houses of our neighbors.
We had to Snapchat ourselves in the act.
And so, as I watched multicolored balloons explode in the Knoxville sky, I watched through the screen of my iPhone. Later, one of my fellow artillery men asked me to send him the video, presumably so that he might use it to communicate the episode to his friends.
You know what they say – pics or it didn't happen.
The phrase seems silly in print, but it should ring familiar to my classmates. British higher education company UCAS found that 82 percent of college freshmen used smartphones in 2013, and those students weren't just using them for the touch-screens.
Outside of texting and calling, 75 percent of the polled students listed taking photos as the most popular phone function.
Anyone in college today probably isn't too shocked. Armed with megapixels and high definition resolution, we university students roam campuses around the world, Snapchatting and Instagramming and Tweeting and Vining our lives away. If we have to talk on the phone, we talk to the phone, using FaceTime or Skype to see each other through the digital reality of a screen.
The pictures and videos are more than keepsakes when we post them to social media. Instead of memorializing our experiences, the images tell their own stories.
In a Darwinian way, photography as interpersonal communication makes sense. It's evolution, the same progress that turned grunts into grammar and transformed newspaper to television to online media. Taking a picture of something is much simpler than describing it in words, and now that we all have cameras in our pockets, it follows that we'd move away from traditional language.
Video recording takes things one step further, allowing us to eschew the limitations of the written verb for its more authentic expression – recorded action.
The predictable result of this image-focused culture, however, is that we have all become reporters. As a journalist, I'll be the first to warn you of the consequences.
Recording life as we live it takes a necessary toll in its living. A journalism professor once warned against becoming a film critic because it would rob you of your ability to enjoy film uncritically. The iPhone effect poses the same threat; if every hike up the mountain is no more than an ascent to the ideal picture backdrop, then the inherent value of the climb is somewhat discarded.
Posting our lives to social media also introduces the threat of a disorder I'll call Like Obsession. When every moment can be casually rated by our Instagram followers and Facebook friends, it can be easy to judge the value of our moments by the number of public affirmations it receives.
Facebook even encourages this sort of ranking psychology, compiling our most-liked moments of the year into a "Year in Review." My 2013 boiled down to a boxing tournament, a trip to Costa Rica, my sister's wedding and a newly-discovered resemblance to Stephen Colbert. These moments were selected in part by me, the poster; their value, however, was determined by the number of times someone clicked a button of appreciation.
No matter the moments of personal growth I experienced in the anonymity of unphotographed events. I can forget them as easily as if they never happened; for all intents and social media purposes, they never did.
And when we don't have a picture or video to express our mood, we have the pictures and videos of others. The definitive bard of our time may not hold up to comparison with Billy Shakespeare or F. Scott Fitzgerald, mainly because our definitive bard is a collective. We, the iPhone-laden elite, are telling the stories of our generation.
Where Shakespeare wrote plays, using repetition and iambic pentameter to express universal truths, we make Tumblr posts, using .gifs of Barney Stinson and Jennifer Lawrence to express our Friday night disasters.
I don't mean to say, "Stop Snapchatting," or "Don't post on Instagram." I certainly don't think I myself will stop scrolling through .gifs of animals doing funny things or sending stupid selfies.
But every once in a while, it's nice to launch water balloons for the sheer enjoyment of watching them fall. And if you're the only one who sees it or likes it, that doesn't mean it didn't happen.
It just happened only to you.
R.J. Vogt is a junior in College Scholars. He can be reached at email@example.com.