We all love a special occasion or an event. Sharing a moment with those around us really is a special feeling. Who hasn’t turned to the person they are with, or even a complete stranger come to that, when we have witnessed something unforgettable?
Look around you next time you are somewhere with a crowd of people and you’ll see couples exchange glances, friends laugh and kids look up smiling at their parents. Except you won’t. Because all you’ll actually see is a wall of phones and tablets being waved in the air as people try and take digital evidence of what is happening instead of sucking up the experience. Have we forgotten how to be present and truly enjoy the moment we are really in?
Here are two examples for you. The husband was watching some F1 racing on TV recently and was getting very excited waiting for the lights to go out, for the cars to sprint away from the starting grid and for the battle of position as they reach the first bend. I was looking at the crowd as the camera swung around the action and all I could see was people watching the panoramic event that was right in front of them cropped by a tiny screen clutched in their hand, desperate to take a photo or record the action.
Another example was TV coverage of events following the death of the late Queen Elizabeth II. King Charles was meeting crowds outside Buckingham Palace and was warmly shaking hands with as many of the waiting crowd as he could. What caught my attention was his Security Officer who was asking people to put down their phones, enjoy the moment and make memories.
Some might argue that they are keeping their memories forever, but realistically, once we have shared the photo with a few people and watched the video on our phones, how often do we actually go back to them? Staring at the tiny screen makes us miss so much else that is going around us, so instead of enjoying the moment, we are actually only taking a snapshot. Instead of making memories, devices are changing the way we behave socially, and I’m not sure I like it.
It used to be kids that were glued to their iPad or smart phones, but now everyone is at it. Those without a digital device are now the minority. Smartphones are now enabling everyone to document not just the interesting, but also the banal. If you don’t believe me, get someone to show you a typical social media feed and it will be full of badly taken photos of anything and everything so dull they have little or no interest to anyone.
And because people are documenting every single aspect of their lives online, the art of conversation is suffering, too. Next time you are in a café or bar, look around and you will see friends and family sat around a table, ignoring each other as they scroll on their phones. Others expect you to know all about their lives because they ‘put it on Facebook’, so when you do meet, they no longer engage in conversation with you and tell you their news. Is it time to reboot our social skills?
Imagine all those images. There must be billions of them uploaded to the internet everyday, not to mention the ones that we take to remember things like where we parked the car or an item we need to add to the shopping list. But a study by Linda Henkel at Fairfield University in Connecticut has shown that we remember less about the things we photograph. She thinks that by relying on the camera to do the remembering for us, we are telling our brains that we don’t need to remember those experiences.
A camera is not connected to our brains, our ears, our eyes or even our nose. Without a camera, our brain takes a multi-dimensional, super-sensory snap shot that it saves to memory. Instead of a digital image saved to the memory of a device, when we are in the moment we lock away more of the experience. Our brain will lock away how we could feel the big bass drum of a marching band, it will store the smell of the salty air you breathed at the beach and it will store the roar of laughter you heard when you had fun with your friends and family.
So we are going to set you a challenge to change your habits and learn to live more in the moment. Stop taking mindless photos and put your phone away in your bag or pocket. Stop recording every little thing on social media. We don’t need photos to prove something really happened and we do not need the validation of likes and comments on Facebook or Instagram feeding our insecurity. This endless search for approval from an online community, often made up of people we barely know, is damaging our mental health, our self-esteem and maybe even our relationships.
Instead, connect with all things real. Real people. Real events. Real conversations. Learn how to make actual eye contact with other people again without the barrier of a phone between you. Learn how to enjoy and embrace the reality you are in. Look around you and work on the habit of noticing. Notice how things make you feel, how they look, sound and smell. By living in the now and practicing the art of noticing, you’ll see that everything around you is constantly changing.
Let life make an imprint on your brain … and there are no data or storage limits. Unlike your phone.