As I scroll through my social media feeds on any given clear evening, I am destined to run into at least one sunset photo. Especially living on the coast, it seems to be much more common.
Luckily, San Luis Obispo has some really great sunset viewing spots, including Avila Beach, Montaña de Oro, Perfumo Canyon, and my personal favorite, Pirate’s Cove. These spots are popular with Cal Poly students and SLO residents. Sunsets are also very popular on San Luis Obispo Twitter feeds.
There has been an ongoing trend of #sunsetpics flooding users’ feeds on all social media platforms. Even though people have been capturing sunsets since before the time of Snapchat or Instagram, social media enables the instant sharing of experiences.
Is it possible to both enjoy the sunset and simultaneously share that sunset with your social media friends?
“Research has found that smartphone use and some social networking can connect family members, seniors, or students to their family, friends, or loved ones who do not live in close proximity,”said Cal Poly experience industry management professor Keri Schwab.
While there are positives to sharing sunsets and other experiences through social media with family and friends, she said, there are also downsides to using social media to document your activities throughout the day.
“If the person is with someone, but somewhat ignoring them to instead post on social media, then that could be disruptive to the shared leisure experience,” Schwab said.
Is there a deeper background to sharing these experiences via social media? It is possible that the reasoning behind this sunset photo phenomena could go beyond simply wanting to keep others up to date on your life. Schwab believes it could be part of a development process for teens in particular:
“Developmentally, teenagers are often working through identity development. Figuring out who they are and what groups they feel good with and part of, is part of the process. Posting and sharing within or to a group may be part of the identity development process.”
Finding a balance is really important when using social media during time spent with friends. It is a great way to stay connected with loved ones far away, but it is also important to be present when you are spending time with someone.
In David Schroeder’s book Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey, he addresses the importance of the moment and says, “We seem preoccupied with capturing moments on our phones, cameras and videos in order to savor this moment in the future. We post it on Facebook and other sites for family and friends to get a sense of our experience in that moment.”
Instead of experiencing that raw moment, we take time to capture the moment for social media and lose that moment. Schroeder reflects on this loss of the present:
“In my ‘wanting’ to take a photo in order the have a picture for the future, I deprive myself of truly experiencing the present. I lose the essence of what is unfolding in the moment. I disrupt my present experience for the future.”
Here is a collection of people and students both enjoying the Pirate’s Cove sunset with friends and sharing their experience on social media: