If you are anything like me, your phone is probably constantly lit up with notifications whether it be emails, texts, likes from your latest Insta post, messages from your work group chat, or a new Snap. It can be hard to turn off and ignore all of this. One thing I really enjoy about traveling is not having access to data so this cuts down on about 90% of the notifications. Being in a time zone on the other side of the world from helps as well, the texts that do come through then are usually while I’m sleeping.
But I’m on vacation! So my phone is out just as much because I need to document everything by either a photo or a video to remember it. Plus I need the proof I was here to my life look more epic on my social media accounts. You know you are guilty of this too! So yeah, you can make your friends jealous by your amazing travel pictures (should that really be your only goal??) but it turns out that taking pictures can actually hurt your memories rather then help preserve them.
I recently read an article by Dr. Linda Henkel in Psychological Science about an study done in 2013. When participants of the study were asked to photograph objects in a museum it was found they did not remember much detail about the object. Henkel called it ‘photo-taking-impairment.’ She goes on further in the article to say “Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organisation of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them. In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them.”
Now that we have the ability to take endless photos, that’s exactly what we do. We don’t even think about what we are taking a picture of anymore. I remember when I was 16 in London running out of film (I feel old just typing this) and having to pay a ridiculous amount of money at one of those tourist shops buying more. You better believe I thought long and hard about if something was actually worth taking a picture of. So many people I’ve talked to have thousands of photos they’ve taken, but they never end up making a photo album with them because it’s too overwhelming to go through all the pictures. Even for myself, I only bother to make an album when I’ve been on a vacation. The only time I find myself looking through the ‘daily life’ pictures is when I decide it’s time to do a Throwback Thursday post. Are my endless pictures really helping me to remember the events in my life better?
I have a video of a street preformer playing Hallelujah along the side of Sacré-Cœur that I took because I wanted my friends back home to get a feel for Europe. (If you want to read my post on Paris click here.) However I found most of them weren’t that interested, and then I forgot I took the video. When I made my photo album from that trip I wasn’t able to include it of course so now this video that I have watched less then five times since is just taking up precious space in my iCloud. I can’t help but wonder now if I had not taken the video if my actual memory of seeing it would be stronger.
This doesn’t just apply to traveling, how many times have you ever watched those videos you took at concerts? I have literally never watched one of them. And yet at every concert I go to I find myself recording at least one. For research purposes for this post I actually did watch one of them, and the sound quality is not even good because of how I was holding my phone plus there’s people that keep walking in front on my lens. Another waste of space in the iCloud.
I take dozens of photos everyday, and this is only amplified when I am on vacation. But lately I have gone back to the same attitude I had when I was 16, trying to only capture good quality photos. Especially when you are seeing the famous sites in Europe, why take the same picture of it that you can find on Google? I try to look at something from a different angle, from my perspective of how I experienced it that day. Another thing I tried was walking around (insert castle, church, garden, monument) first and then going back around again to take my photos. Try to enjoy the details, and let the fact that you are standing in this amazing place where so much history has occurred soak in.
I am definitely not suggesting that you don’t take pictures or videos on your trips, but try to be conscious of how much time you are spending seeing your vacation through the screen of your phone rather then being present in the moment and experiencing it through your own eyes. Even if you aren’t traveling try to put your phone away and be present in the current moment and experience the life you are living now instead of the online world. It will all still be there when you get home, enjoying life without pants, and you need something to look at while Friends is playing in the background for the bazillionth time.