Let’s put our phones down.
Nowadays, smartphones are everywhere. Actually, smartphones are everything: calendar, camera, notepad, maps etc.
It’s becoming more & more difficult to live without our phones. We bring them everywhere we go & get desperate if the battery goes down too fast.
Addiction? Who said addiction 😂? Yes, I think we are addicted.
Another consequence of us having an eye on our phone all the time is that we aren’t “here & now” anymore.
Having coffee with a friend? Both smartphones will be on the table. Our attention can get distracted by notifications in 3 (!) different ways.
We can hear them (noise), feel them (vibrations), see them (message on the screen).
Now, the biggest respect we can show to the person who’s spending time with us is to keep our phone upside down, in silent mode, far away from us.
This gives a clear message: you / our conversation / the time we spend together is more important than whatever my phone has to tell me.
It’s offering ourself a ”here & now”, some quality time without the interference of the “out-there”.
Another aspect of having our smartphone with us all the time is that we also have a camera wherever we go. An easy-to-use & light camera.
We end up taking a lot of pictures with our phone. Dozens of pics in a normal day. Hundreds maybe during special events.
Can we imagine not taking pictures with our phone during the following events:
- sibling’ wedding ceremony,
- our baby’s 1st birthday party
- our eldest daughter ‘s graduation,
- the farewell party of a dear friend,
- actually any kind of intense events life offers us & that we want to remember forever.
But we might want to think about really living the moment & not through our phone screen.
A few years ago, I had a very special moment like this with my now-late mother. We went on a hot air ballon flight during sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey.
A truly unique, intense, magic moment, which I wanted to be able to remember forever.
Guess what. I don’t remember it.
I remember the “before” & the “after” but I don’t remember the “during”. And believe me, I’m deeply sad about this.
How come I end up not remembering this moment?
The answer is simple: because I was taking pictures most of the time. I was so amazed by the spectacular landscape we were flying over during sunrise that I photographed it during almost the whole flight. I wanted to capture this beauty forever & I forgot about living the moment.
I love the pictures I took on that morning but they feel bitter-sweet.
What about the experience I was living & what about the “mother & daughter” experience we were supposed to have? It’s gone forever.
Just by taking pictures or making videos all the time during an event, we’re making our memories of the event loose.
We document our lives with our phones, to make sure we’ll remember our happy moments but it seems to be counterproductive.
We give less attention to an experience when we know that it will be safely stored in our smartphone.
So we’re putting a lot of energy in creating memories & we get the opposite result!
(And, let’s face it, most of the pictures we take all the time with our smartphone are only worth being shared on social medias.)
In many cases, scientists are finding that constant photo taking actually diminishes our ability to recall our experiences, diverts our attention, and takes us out of the moment.
How come this is happening?
Giuliana Mazzoni, professor of Psychology, University of Hull, says that “we use smart phones and new technologies as memory repositories. This is nothing new – humans have always used external devices as an aid when acquiring knowledge and remembering” (here is her full article).
Writing certainly serves this function. Maybe you’re like me: I keep a notebook on my nightstand to write down all the ideas/thoughts/things-to-do that make my brain busy & prevent me from sleeping? Here we are, same logic!
When we’re taking a lot of pics with our smartphone, we see everything trough our screen, in 2 dimensions already.
Our brain knows something else is creating memories so it’s not working as effectively as usually. Indeed our brain will create memories less intense, less precise, less clear, less stronger.
Because we don’t need to rely on our memory much in many many occasions …. We have smartphones :).
A dentist appointment or a birthday? On our calendar.
A genius idea or the shopping list? On our notes.
Our sister’s cellphone number? On our phonebook.
Which day we had our last periods? On a special “Cycle” app.
Our hand-written letters? WhatsApp messages.
We give our phones the mission to remember…. and our brain knows! It doesn’t create memories as efficiently as it would.
When it comes to strict information, I think it’s great & that we’re lucky to have these helpful tools at our fingertips.
When it comes to special & emotional memories, I feel we’re loosing something.
To sum up:
When we are taking pictures during an event, because 100% of our attention is not in the moment:
- we are distancing ourselves from fuller participation
- we’ll have a poorer recall of the actual event
- we’ll have less memory material to awake when we’ll look at our pictures.
Attention & Intention
To be fair about smartphones, I looked for studies about taking pictures with a (real 😋) camera & the impact on memories. There are a few & the conclusions are more or less the same: when we’re taking too many pictures, we’re not paying attention & our memories are less precise.
Believe me, I am the first to say “Pictures have an endless value, they are part of our visual heritage, they just have to be taken”.
I still stand by this AND by taking pictures on a conscious way.
We should think twice before taking pictures all the time, in order to find the right balance between:
- snapping constantly, missing the whole moment & not creating real memories
- taking a couple of shots, being here & now AND creating memories material (to be able to recall our moment in the best way possible).
So how can we find the solution to the equation: “Good quality memories” + “Pictures to remember”?
For me, the solution is double:
- Truly pay attention to what is happening, to be “here & now”, to avoid being distracted.
This makes us see more details & feel more intensively the emotion of the moment.
We can keep our smartphone at reach (remember, it’s more than a habit, it’s almost an addiction so it might take time to feel ok without our phones in our hands) but do our best to see the event directly with our eyes & not through a screen.
We can rely on others (friends, family, professional photographer here to create the most beautiful pictures) to take pictures & get them later on.
- Have an intention before taking a picture.
I personally feel one thing can make a huge difference, may we use a smartphone or a DSLR: Our intention.
Let’s wonder “Am I taking a picture I value or Am I just having a modern reflex?”
As soon as we do pay more attention during an event, special moments will stand out & we’ll get better at choosing the right moment to take a pic.
If we think about the interest of the image we’re about to take (= we take a step away from just following a reflex), we might end up not taking that pic.
And for a further step, if we think about the result we want to achieve (= setting up our camera according to our photo intention) before taking the picture, then we will act consciously.
So by paying attention, we really enjoy the moment & we are creating quality memories.
From this full presence, we can develop a photography intention & more meaningful images.
So let’s be conscious of our actions & do our best to be “here & now”.
Let’s put our phones down for a moment & enjoy life, happiness & beauty in the simplest way, with all our senses.
Let’s act with intention & let’s think about what we’re about to do.
And if you want to make sure images are created during a special event, rely on someone else to capture lovely moment.
You’ll be sereine & phone-free during the event, you’ll be creating great memories to recall & you’ll receive beautiful images of the moment.
Have a lovely day ☀️!