What do you look like when you look at your electronic device?

Angie and Me from "Removed." (Photo: Eric Pickersgill)

Angie and Me from “Removed.” (Photo: Eric Pickersgill)

If you’re like most people, there’s a good chance you spend a lot of time looking down at your mobile device.

Impressed by the amount of people – including himself – who were engaging more with their devices than with friends and family, Eric Pickersgill decided to create a photographic project about this behavior and titled it Removed. In the series, he asks his subjects to pose while looking at their electronic devices and then photographs them while holding that pose without the devices in their hands. The series struck a chord and quickly went viral last year.

At TEDxBend, Pickersgill says the work speaks to behavior that has radically altered the ways in which we communicate with one another and also leaves open questions about possible long-term mental and physical health problems.

“What are we really giving up in exchange for infinite information or digital connectivity,” Pickersgill asks. “And when will we find out what these long term effects are?”

Are we too far gone to change this behavior? And, if so, how do we begin to “remove” ourselves from it?

Pickersgill feels that by using photography and taking a good look at ourselves, we can modify our behavior.  He and his wife decided to film their lives in order to get an idea about how much they had incorporated technology into their own lives. They decided they were spending far too much time using their devices and needed to make a few changes. They designated parts of their home as device-free zones, left their phones in their car when they went out to eat, and stopped watching movies in their living room with their devices.

Suddenly, they got to know one another better, he says. “Only after my wife and I saw ourselves in this photograph did our behavior start to change,” he says. “We wanted to carve out real time for one another and to prioritize our relationship. The photograph helped us realize the way that our body language was isolating ourselves from one another.”

“In our busy lives these little moments together, they really add up … We’ve grown closer to each other more in the past six months than we have in the past three years.”

TEDxBend "Removed" (Photo: Eric Pickersgill)

TEDxBend “Removed” (Photo: Eric Pickersgill)

Pickersgill decided to help the TEDxBend audience begin their own lifestyle changes. First, he created the largest “Removed” photograph to date by taking a shot of the entire audience in a “Removed” pose. He then asked each audience member to take a selfie while recreating a similar pose and to make that shot the background image on their device, “so that every time you get that itch to check your phone you will see yourself in the way that others see you while using this technology.”

Try it out yourself and see what you think and then upload it to your social media account with #TEDxBend2016Removed

And watch the entire talk below:

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