Stealing Memories: Why taking photos is making us miss out

August 17, 2014 5:58 pm

I’m sure you’ve all been in the situation. Going on a family outing, maybe a hike or walk; upon reaching your destination the collective mother of the family will produce a camera seemingly from nowhere and order everyone to stand in a line and smile.

Everyone musters up a fake grin and competes to see whose will become a grimace first. Things will be heard in the stress of the moment such as:

“Lucy, stop texting for one second and smile.”

“Someone hold the dog.”

“Did it flash?”

“Stand in a damn line!”

Give mothers cameras and they suddenly turn into dictators.

The picture is taken, then grandma complains she wasn’t looking, the dog runs away, someone blinked…I mean, if that doesn’t take the fun out of something what does? If you ask someone why they took the picture in the first place, they’ll say ‘to remember that moment.’ How bad are people’s memories becoming if they can’t remember the time they climbed Everest or their child’s graduation? I know this isn’t a black and white argument – of course you want to have pictures of your new born son or daughter, of course you want physical evidence of your first marathon – but why can’t we simply enjoy the experience of something without having to try and steal and keep it for ourselves? When we take a picture we’re forfeiting holding the memory in our head because of the knowledge that we have it on paper. The best memories I have are those that reside in my head, not those in a photo album.

When we become aware that we are being seen through a lens rather than just the naked eye, we immediately put up a filter for ourselves; we make sure we do everything with a constant grace so we are not caught unaware by the flash of humiliation. As you would expect, this affects our mind-set of how we want to be perceived, meaning moments we would have otherwise enjoyed become an act, at least until the camera is put away. As a result we come away with great photos, but stilted memories of the event.

Of course you need photos of certain things, but we’re in the age of selfies (at this point even Word is telling me ‘selfie’ isn’t a legitimate phrase) so we take pictures of more or less everything. The other day I saw a photo of an Instagram picture, posted on Tumblr, shared on Facebook only to be reposted on Twitter -the sad thing is I’m not even making that up. We’re in an age ruled by technology which leaves little space for the rest of us to breathe. So next time someone whips out a camera and starts giving orders, be that person who rebels against the photo and instead just remember the moment for yourself.

“But if we don’t take a photo we’ll forget.”

If you forget it, was it really worth remembering in the first place?


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