being a mom

If You Don’t Document It, It Still Happened – And You’ll Probably Remember It Better

By  | 

146634794Obsessively documenting every single thing we do with our stupid iPhones is ruining our lives and stealing our memories. Okay, I’m exaggerating. A little.

A new psychological study by Linda Henkel of Fairfield University has provided some proof there is an effect to all of these photos we’re constantly snapping. There’s something called a “photo-taking impairment effect”: when we take a photo of something we don’t remember it as well.

“When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences,” explains Henkel.

Yes! That. I’d also like to add, as per my first set of comments – that obsessively documenting events ruins them. Been to a concert lately? How about a wedding? I’m a photographer and have worked many a wedding. Do you know what is ruining wedding photos? People taking terrible fucking pictures on their phones. They are in every important shot. What about concerts? How many times have you seen a concert photo taken with a phone, where you can actually decipher who is performing? Phone concert photos are crap. Stop it, people. Just stop it.

To test her hypothesis Henkel set up an experiment in the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University, leading students on a tour of the museum and asking students to take note of certain objects by photographing them or simply looking at them.

The next day the students’ memory of the tour was tested, with the results showing that the subjects were less able to recognize the objects they had photographed compared to those they had only looked at.

I’m a mother of two; I understand the desire to capture moments. But guess what – if you don’t catch them on film, they still happened. I know that sounds crazy – but they did. I wasn’t able to document my son’s first step – I was too busy celebrating with him. I can choose one of the plethora of pictures I took of him when he was around a year old and pretend that was the one. That’s good enough for me.

The biggest problem? The sheer volume of the photos we’re taking. We’re taking so many it’s almost impossible to organize and interact with them all:

“Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them,” says Henkel. “In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them.”

I can attest to this one; I’ve yet to make a baby book yet. I wonder if this is something that would have been done already had my photos not been digital and numbering in the thousands.

“People so often whip out their cameras almost mindlessly to capture a moment, to the point that they are missing what is happening right in front of them,” said Henkel.

(photo: Getty Images)