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Capturing Moments

Recently, I found myself in an uncommon situation: confined to bed due to illness.  When not sleeping I was looking for something to do that didn’t take much energy and concentration, so I decided to start cleaning up my massive archive of digital photographs.  As I was deleting tens of thousands of photos, many of which I had never looked at since taking them, I wondered what had motivated me to take so many pictures.  In this digital age where people take photos of everything from meaningful life events to what they had for dinner, I began to wonder about the cost of this way of living.

Life is full of tradeoffs so what are we giving up when we are constantly trying to digitally capture all kinds of moments in our lives?  And what motivates this behaviour?  Perhaps, I will start with the second question.  I think most people take photos to share with other people.  We post on social media, send photos directly to other peoples phones, or on occasion even show others what we have captured on our phone. We love to share our experiences, in part, as a way of building connection.  It may confirm our shared interests like our love of dogs or places we’ve travelled.  It can also be a way of expressing who we are or the part of us we want people to see.

I really enjoy photography but I haven’t done it as a hobby for years, so I can’t say that has been my motivation for taking so many photos.  I have taken a lot less photos in recent years and I think that pre-Covid my life was so fast paced and I travelled so much that I wanted to document it somehow. When wondering where the years have gone I wanted to have some representation of my accumulated experiences. Or maybe I was worried my memory would fail me. Perhaps reminders of our past and helping us make connection with others are two potential motivators for the many pictures we take.  But what does it cost us?

When you stop to take a selfie, take a picture of your food or snap a photo of something you intend to post, what are you missing out on?  Do the smiling faces of any given photo tell the real story of that moment? What do you miss when you are trying to take that perfect shot?  Can we be present in the moment when we are trying to capture moments for the future?  If you leave your phone at home for a day or meet with friends and agree a no phone policy, you will find answers to these questions. Our photo-taking devices distract us and keep us out of the present moment.  After my photo deleting project I have decide to pause and ask myself if I will ever look at this photo again, when I feel the urge to pull out my phone for a photo.  This should help me be more present and save me time delete endless numbers of photos in the future.  What about you?  Are you in the moment or are you often busy trying to record as many moments as possible on your phone?

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