My son got married last month and I had a front row seat. As I sat there taking it all in, my ex-husband had his smart phone out and took pictures throughout the ceremony. I found myself wondering how much of the wedding he was actually experiencing.
Taking photos of every big and small life event seems to have reached epidemic proportions. And while the technology makes it so easy to “capture” every moment, I think it points towards something a bit more important – the disconnection between ourselves and the experience of the present moment, also known as “our lives.”
While we think we are getting images of life that we can share with others and enjoy ourselves, we are actually closing ourselves off to the full experience of that instant. We have the picture, and we are missing all of the other sensory experiences that go with it – the smells, sounds, tactile sensations, thoughts, and emotions, to name a few.
I saw and felt my son getting choked up seeing his future wife walk down the aisle. As I sat there watching them exchange vows, I was so aware of the beautiful music, the colors in the room and the temperature of the air. My body tingled and my heart beat faster as I opened to the love and joy in the room. I felt like a sponge soaking up all the happiness that surrounded me. I experienced more deeply the connections between us all, as well as some thoughts that I’m not as proud of…and all of this was unfolding simultaneously as I gave myself completely to each moment that arrived. And as I think of it now, I reexperience it in great detail, on all sensory levels.
Then this morning, I came across a study done by psychological scientist Linda Henkel of Fairfield University in Connecticut in which she describes the “Photo-taking Impairment Effect.”
In her study in the journal Psychological Science, she says, “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.” And because we take so many pictures and don’t really organize them, we can’t easily find them to enjoy and remember the experience later.
Thus, not only do we miss much of what is going on when we are busy taking pictures, we inhibit our ability to fully remember the event later. I am not suggesting that we all stop taking pictures, rather that we bring awareness to what it is that we are actually after and if taking a photo is the best way to get it.
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net