By MJ Routh | Photographer
This summer I went to Tampa Bay, Fla., and while playing pickle-ball with my grandparents, I realized I had spent so much of my week looking through the camera on my phone. It was as if I had never seen the ocean before or even my grandparents for that matter. While it bummed me out to think about it like that, I also had to remind myself of the photos and videos I took that I now get to treasure and look back on.
I get that same sense of guilt when I fall down that lovely Instagram rabbit hole that is the explore page. First of all, the explore page is a place of comfort and entertainment, let me tell you that much. But, it produces that same feeling that I had just spent my time unwisely. I could’ve been fishing with my grandpa or playing Mexican Train Dominoes, but instead I spent it looking at my phone.
I think that somewhere along the way of smartphones and technological advancement, we have been conditioned to think snapping photos hinders you from living in the moment. It’s like taking a photo is wearing tunnel-vision goggles. However, despite that sense of guilt, I do not agree with this.
The general idea is that smartphones and their cameras are harmful to our well-being and our memory. Alixandra Barasch, an NYU researcher, has found otherwise. From a series of recent papers between her and her colleagues, Barasch found that taking photos cannot only improve people’s memory of experiences, but it also boosts enjoyment. It boils down to this: when we snap pictures of things we are interested in, we are likely to focus on those specific things more closely.
“When you’re searching the visual field and trying to decide what to photograph, that volitional process of trying to capture a moment actually draws you into the experiences,” Barasch said.
However, when I say “take more photos,” I don’t mean post more on Instagram or make sure everything is aesthetically pleasing for your audience. Because, as Barasch said, “When we take photos with the goal of sharing, it makes us think about how others are going to evaluate those photos.” When we snap photos knowing we are going to post it to a social platform, it makes worried as to how others are going to view us.
I am also not saying that every photo has meaning and to take your phone out as your walking to class, snapping photos of fire hydrants along the way. I’m saying that taking photos isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a really good thing. You are able to revisit that specific moment in time through an image. And that’s pretty neat if you ask me.
Memories alone are valuable, yes, but photos make it that much easier to relive that very moment. So go ahead, take that fresh-out-of-bed selfie with your dog. You’ll be so happy you did.
MJ is a senior journalism major from Omaha, Neb.