I love being a millennial.
Ask anybody and they’ll roll their eyes and agree.
Hipster coffee shops?
Twenty somethings making a living BLOGGING AND POSTING PICTURES ON SOCIAL MEDIA!?
When the whole millennial term really started popping up a few years ago, I finally found a stereotype of people I can identify with and, it feels pretty cool.
Like any young generation, millennials are re-defining the world. Our generation is eating healthier and consuming less and traveling more. We’re informed, we’re passionate and I really, truly believe that we have a shot at changing the world.
But, to every coin there are two sides.
Stereotypes don’t pop up from unicorn emojis and kombucha startups.
Last weekend, I went to Southern California to visit a friend and we found ourselves outside of Palm Springs, in what’s known as Coachella Valley.
We decided to check out an art installation called Desert X that we’d heard about, admittedly, on social media.
Now, I think its safe to say that the Coachella Music Festival may very well be a defining icon of the millennial generation. If you’ve ever opened the Instagram app, you’ve heard of Coachella, so its quite possible Coachella Valley just may be the Millennial Capitol of the World.
Desert X, as defined on its website;
“THE COACHELLA VALLEY AND ITS DESERT LANDSCAPE WILL BECOME THE CANVAS FOR A CURATED EXHIBITION OF SITE-SPECIFIC WORK BY ESTABLISHED AND EMERGING ARTISTS, WHOSE PROJECTS WILL AMPLIFY AND ARTICULATE GLOBAL AND LOCAL ISSUES THAT MAY RANGE FROM CLIMATE CHANGE TO STARRY SKIES, FROM TRIBAL CULTURE AND IMMIGRATION TO TOURISM, GAMING, AND GOLF. THE ARTWORKS, IN VARIOUS INDOOR AND OUTDOOR LOCATIONS, WILL BE AVAILABLE FREE AND WILL OFFER VISITORS A WAY TO SEE THE VALLEY AND REFLECT ON SERIOUS AND PLAYFUL ISSUES THROUGH THE LENS OF THE PARTICIPATING ARTISTS’ CREATIVITY AND WORK.”
We first visited “The Circle of Land and Sky” which was comprised of hundreds of mirrored pillars arranged in a huge circle in the desert sand. On the last Saturday of the installation, the Saturday after Coachella 2017 had wrapped up, we were by no means the only people there.
Each and every person at Phillip Smith’s installation had an iPhone, DSLR or a drone out and we’re all there for the very same purpose; to snap the perfect ‘gram.
My friend and I worked around the people, trying ourselves to capture “artsy” photos of ourselves amidst Smith’s pillars.
Later that day, we headed to, perhaps, the most well known of Desert X’s installations, “Mirage” otherwise known as the mirror house.
Sitting atop a hill, overlooking Palm Springs, Mirage, Doug Aitken’s piece, is a ranch style “house” completely made of mirrors. Every surface of the house, inside and out, is a mirror.
There were literally hundreds of people at Mirage when we showed up. There was a line to get in the house, there were rent-a-cops desperately trying to bring some form of order to the throngs, people were surrounding the house on all sides, spilling from within, all dressed in their hipster best, cameras, phones, drones in hand (and sky) frantically scrambling to capture the perfect shot of themselves looking moody and utterly alone among the sea of humanity.
We waited in line to get inside the house, took our pictures and were ushered out as the installation closed for the day due to a visitor breaking a mirror panel on the outside of the installation.
We found ourselves getting frustrated that there were so many people and upset that we never got any Instagram worthy photos.
I looked back at the house and had to stop myself.
Why were we even there!?
Was the sole purpose of our journey really to capture the perfect ‘gram?
My friend doesn’t have aspirations of being a professional photographer and, while I can dream, I know that I truly don’t either. We weren’t there taking pictures for our “art”. We were there solely for the purpose of showing other people that we were cool and had been to the mirror house.
It shocked me a little bit that I let myself get so absorbed and so unconscious.
What was the purpose of Desert X? It wasn’t to be the backdrop to 35,000 (not even kidding, that’s how many posts #desertx has on Instagram) photos taken by Coachella passerby. It’s purpose, was that of any piece of art; to express the emotions, the values, the issues close to the artist’s heart. The huge group of millennials in felt hats and rompers that were taking pictures at the mirror house weren’t appreciating Aitken’s work. They weren’t even looking at it. They likely didn’t even know his name. They were destroying it.
When I got home, I looked up all the Desert X exhibits and read their stories. They’re beautiful works of art, by talented artists with inspiring backstories. What they turned into, what my generation turned them into, sickens me. If you’re interested in DesertX as art, click here.
If you’re a frequenter of my blog, you know that I am passionate about the outdoors. I see the same thing happen to every beautiful place outside as well. People snapping away on their phone screens, ignoring the beautiful freaking view in front of them to get the perfect ‘gram. To get more likes.
I love social media, I really do. I aspire to be one of those twenty somethings I lust after, who makes a living blogging and ‘gramming. But being conscious and truly experiencing life are way more important to me.
I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of it before, being so caught up in the picture taking, or the Snapchatting that we loose touch with the reality right in front of us.
We’re on our phones while we’re driving and when we’re out to dinner with loved ones and when we should be paying attention in meetings.
Social media should be something that connects us. A tool to encourage people to be adventurous, to stand up for what’s right, to inform, to support, to empower. It shouldn’t turn into our whole lives.
I encourage you this week to go on an adventure just for the sake of going on an adventure. Leave your phone in your pocket or your glove box or even at home and go truly experience something; whether its what your friend has to say at lunch, or your dog’s enthusiasm at the park, or a really stunning view.
Let’s break the millennial stereotype of being self-absorbed and obsessed with the instant gratification. Let’s use this amazing power of technology we’ve been graced with for good.