When I was growing up, taking pictures was a big deal. You had ONE SHOT to get a picture right. Everyone had to stop moving, put on big smiles, and LOOK at the camera before it clicked. Once a roll of film was used up, we had to wait for our film to be developed before seeing what the shot actually looked like. Photos were a lesson in delayed gratification.
Today, however, we can take as many pictures as we want (or as many as the storage on our phones will allow) with a device that easily fits in our pocket. It seems that everywhere you go people have out their phones, taking pictures. Kids playing at the park while parents are taking pictures. A couple on a date, taking selfies. Mom and Dad snapping pictures of every activity on family vacation. You get the point. People use pictures to “capture the moment” so that later they can look back and reminisce. Did you ever wonder, though, if in our pursuit to capture the moment, we are perhaps missing our chance to actually BE in the moment?
What Does Science Say?
Fairfield University psychologist Linda Henkel wondered if “documenting every moment might actually cause us to lose the very memories we long to immortalize” (2013). Thus, she decided to conduct a study to test her theory. Henkel took a group of college students to an art museum; she asked them to photograph 15 works of art, while simply viewing another 15. When the students were tested on the artwork the following day, they remembered fewer of pieces of art they had photographed than the ones they had only viewed (Henkel, 2013). Interestingly, their memories of the photographed art held less detail than the viewed artwork, as well (Henkel, 2013).
Missing Out on Memories
Could it be that in our efforts to “capture the moment,” we are missing out on making meaningful, lasting memories?
– If I attend a wedding and spend the whole time viewing the event “through my phone,” will I truly remember how radiant the bride looked or the way the groom got teary when he read his vows?
– When I visit my grandparents and spend the time taking videos of them, will I be able to capture the feeling of my grandma’s hand holding mine, or the twinkle in my grandpa’s eye when he tells me a joke?
– If I take my kids to the park and keep asking them to pose for pictures, are they really playing? And am I adding to their joy and love of physical activity and the outdoors?
I think you can see what I’m getting at. Perhaps it’s time to put down our phones more often than we pick them up, choosing to capture moments in our “minds eye” rather than on our phones.
Truly Capturing the Moment
If you are looking for ways to be more present and capture each moment, give these ideas a try.
1. Put away your phone. While our phones are a great tool to stay connected, they also can be a huge distraction. When you are with others, make a conscious choice to put down your phone and focus on the person right in front of you. If you choose to take a few pictures, that’s fine; however, the phone should be out of your hand far more than it is in it.
2. Listen more than you speak. A fantastic way to engage well with others is to listen more than we talk. It can be easy to monopolize the conversation or be focused on what you are going to say next. However, simply listening to someone else instead of talking sends the message that you are present and engaged.
3. Make eye contact. Making eye contact is a very important part of conversation. When someone is on their phone, it sends the message that they are disengaged and says, “What I’m doing is more important than you.” Putting away distractions and making eye contact sends a different message: “You have my full attention. I am happy to be in this moment with you.”
4. Embrace spontaneity. While a schedule is an important element of adult life, it’s also important to be spontaneous. Also, being spontaneous is a great way to enjoy every opportunity that life has to offer. So, stop for an ice cream cone, pull off on your road trip to see that waterfall, or jump in the car for an unplanned excursion. You won’t regret these unexpected adventures!
5. Be mindful. Prayer and meditation on Scripture are a great way to practice mindfulness. They also allow you to fully connect with your Savior – a practice that can easily be pushed to the side because of busyness. Remember that being mindful patience, dedication, and practice.
Are you ready to truly capture the moment?
Henkel, L. A. (2013). Point-and-shoot memories: The influence of taking photos on memory for a museum tour. Psychological Science, 25(2), 396-402. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613504438
Winkler, E. (2014). The science behind #ThrowbackThursday. The New Republic. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/118017/memory-happiness-science-behind-throwbackthursday