Why do I like to wait for my smartphone photos to be “developed”?

Support request:
I recently downloaded one of the camera apps, which will allow you to wait a few days before you can access the photos. The delay reminded me of waiting for the photos to be washed when I was a child, making the whole process more enjoyable. But shouldn’t I use technology to make things faster and more efficient? Am I deceiving myself by trying to live in the past in a certain way?


Dear Focus——

It is difficult to talk about the camera without talking about the time. Photography is an attempt to outsmart clocks and calendars. As the film critic André Bazin once said, this art “can be antiseptic, but save time from its proper corruption. “Even as technology becomes more and more complex, cameras still retain some of the characteristics of their ancestors, as if they were frozen by time. The shooting button on the phone camera app will still make a mechanical click of the physical shutter. Filters fade the image and change the color palette, mimicking the aging process that digital photos are immune to.

Having said that, I suspect that simple nostalgia caused you to download this application. If you want to enjoy the fantasy of past life, you can easily jump on eBay or go to second-hand stores, the graveyard of those analog technologies, and then pick up an old SLR. My guess is that the app is fulfilling a more specific desire, and waiting itself is the main attraction.

Of course, most of us have the opposite instinct. As we all know, even if the cost of waiting is lower or the reward is higher, people usually choose instant happiness. This cognitive bias is called “hyperbolic discounting” in behavioral economics, and it is the basis of human nature, so much so that it was dramatized in our earliest myths. (Faced with the choice between apple and eternal life in heaven, Adam and Eve chose the forbidden fruit.) If anything, the speed of contemporary life will only further weaken our ability to wait. In the late 1970s, the one-hour photography boom that coincided with the invention of the microlab was a good example of how lucrative impatience can be for people who know how to use it. It turns out that customers are willing to pay almost twice as much to develop their movies in 60 minutes instead of days. “We live in a society of instant gratification,” an early minilab owner told New York Times“We want something now.”

You impressed me, Focused, as one of those rare souls who can achieve great self-control, the kind of person who is willing to give up the $50 now offered and support the $100 promised in the future. This is a feature that is undoubtedly useful in many situations, although in the case of camera applications, there is no real advantage to delay gratification. The reward does not increase over time; you get the same photo. In a sense, your desire to wait is even more unreasonable than hyperbolic discounting, which at least has an evolutionary advantage (those who refuse to maintain life rewards may not be able to live to see further rewards).

For people like you, I think economics and marketing psychology are not as helpful as philosophy. As early as 1930, Bertrand Russell pointed out that the endless stream of novelties in modern life can be tiresome. He wrote: “A life of overexcitement is a life of exhaustion. In this life, increasing stimulation is needed to make the pleasure that has been considered an essential part of happiness.” Russell believes that instant gratification has been eliminated. Thanks to our ability to endure boredom and idleness, these periods make happiness truly enjoyable, just as long winters increase the joy of spring. We are creatures on earth, he wrote, “The rhythm of life on earth is very slow; for it, autumn and winter are as important as spring and summer, and rest is as important as exercise.” Ironically, focusing on “now “In the culture, promise to immediately satisfy any whim (this guarantee is echoed in the names of the main photo-sharing platforms: Instagram, Flickr), and it’s becoming difficult to truly enjoy now. We are so focused on the next entertainment, the next post, A dopamine hit.

I think, focus, you may feel a little tired. Perhaps the choice to wait for your photos is to escape the happy tyranny and free yourself from the torment of everyday novelties that threaten the eternal scrolling of news sources or the bottomless pit of search results. The speed at which we can generate and access images now has its own burden. The responsibility of checking, editing, and sharing the photos you take immediately often prevents you from fully experiencing the beautiful moments that may be enough to capture.

Traditionally, even those innovations aimed at accelerating the pace of life have brought unexpected leisure. The one-hour photo studio creates an awkward time interval, which is too short for many errands, and some customers may fill it by strolling in the town or smoking a cigarette in the park. MP3 introduces a five-minute download time window (Can we wait so long for the music?) During this time you can write an email or make a cup of coffee. The writer Douglas Coupland once wrote an article about “time snacks”, that is, “pseudo-leisure-creative moments” when the computer stops responding. Over the years, our snacks have become less and less. When we look away from the screen and wait for a page refresh or application download, our snacks have become less and less, although the relief is still Obvious. The beauty of these moments is different from the relief we feel when a snowstorm or heavy rain stops life, makes us helpless, and allows us to remain still. The delay imposed by your camera application is an attempt to capture and prolong those moments that are forced to be lazy-arguably “anti-corrosion” them.

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