Do Spectacles Mean We No Longer Have to Point at the Moon?

When Snapchat and psychology collide

John Mannelly
4 min readDec 15, 2016


Take a look at this graph (assuming it’s not fake). A lot of humans own a lot of cameras, and are capable of taking a lot of photos. Which is exactly what we’re doing.

Long before Snapchat was around, Susan Sontag had a good sense for where our culture was headed, noting that photography had already become:

“almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing.”

Suffice it to say, photos became even more unbiquitous than she imagined.

Sontag described, somewhat tragically, the psychology and social dynamic of our yet-to-exist online visual culture as an addiction.

“Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted.”

I would argue that everyone is not addicted, but it does seem to play an integral part in everyday life.

From all the way back in 1977, Susan Sontag could see the power of the photograph and its potential influences on the experiences we have.

As you move throughout your day tomorrow, take a moment to just sit and observe people. Notice how frequently they use their smartphone cameras to capture pictures and videos. Watch as people’s thumbs feed their feeds.

Better yet, if you’ve attended a concert recently then you might have noticed the amount of light that emulates from the sea of smartphones. When we do this, are we paying attention to the show or how the show is being recorded through our screens?

I’ve started to question whether we are vacating experiences in lieu of photos, or more specifically, snaps?

I can’t aptly describe the feeling, but there is something difficult about being present while being on a smartphone. The moment you stare at it, you jump into smartphone world. And when you’re in that world, the smartphone all of the sudden stands between you and the physical experience you are trying to capture and share.

While this idea was percolating one evening, I came across a relevant quote from Italo Calvino which read,

“The life that you live in order to photograph it is already, at the outset, a commemoration of itself.”

This made me question myself. Was I taking snaps of my experiences, or seeking experiences just to snap? Regardless of the answer, I get a sense that the underlying nature of Snap Spectacles will solve this riddle.

I believe that going through life with a camera present is fundamentally different than being without one. Annie Dillard captures this difference nicely,

“When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer.”

In other words, when you have you’re smartphone camera out you’re on the hunt, seeing the world as various opportunities to snap. But when a snap is not an option because no camera is present, you arguably immerse yourself more seamlessly into the moment, paradoxically creating a better snap because of the moments authenticity.

But what happens when a camera is built into our point of view? What happens when the only effort to capture snaps is a simple touch of a finger?

This is what Spectacles is creeping towards. The ability to “enjoy” experiences without the friction of holding a camera in front of our face, escaping the duality in the process.

Eventually we should be able to trick our senses into acting as if we are the unscrupulous observer walking without a camera, even though we actually have a camera embedded into our glasses. We will no longer need to point at the moon, we’ll just look at it through our Spectacles.

From this perspective, we can begin to rethink how to explore the world through Spectacles. If we can truly experience a moment and document it in the process, then my gut tells me people will seek out experiences more and more.

Ben Thompson often says that the best place to be is no longer in a room in front of a computer, but rather out in the world with a computer in your hand.

Let’s take this to a logical next step. What if the best place to be is no longer out in the world with a computer in your hand, but rather, with a computer on your face?

Lol…But seriously?

“To commemorate life in the act of living it seems to be the human condition — or the human curse.” -Italo Calvino


If you made it this far and are asking yourself, “yeah, but so what?” then read Part 2 where I explore the virtuous cycle of experiences and stories.