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Recording Memories: Why Must We Capture Our Every Moment?

If you haven’t seen the picture that’s been floating around concerning the pope’s inauguration, well here it is:

What strikes many people at first is our advancement in technology, just over the course of a few years. Those iPads and phones literally light up the sky.

But something else strikes me immediately — our constant desire to record or photograph all of our sights, adventures or even mundane daily activities (when people upload photos of their food or drink to Facebook. Why?!)

Now I’m sure seeing the new pope in St. Peter’s Square in Rome is a fairly big deal for some, and taking a picture at some point seems like a must. And certainly we see a few phones in the 2005 photograph. But based on the photo, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people were recording the entire event.  And I think this obsession with capturing our every moment has increased to an obnoxious, unhealthy level. There’s even an app called “1 Second Every Day,” which encourages people to capture a moment each day in order to ultimately have a future video compilation. How exhausting!

This obsession takes us away from living in the present — from capturing events with our hearts and minds.

I remember attending a concert a few years back — I wanted to record most of it so I could play it back in the future so I could never forget it. About ten minutes into the concert my friend looked at me and said, “What are you doing?! Put your camera down and dance.”

So I did. And though I may not know every crazy outfit Lady Gaga had on that night, I know I had a hell of a time — and in some ways, that’s better.

Now I do see the merit of taking some photographs and recording some things. It’s meaningful to see what my grandparents looked like when they were younger or to relive some of my milestones through photos. And because I happen to have an awful memory, capturing fun times is often very tempting for me.

But I always have more fun when I’m capturing something intangible, like an experience, instead of a tangible photograph or video. I pay attention more, I learn more and I feel more. Why remove yourself from a present situation by keeping yourself behind a camera?

But it has become addictive and has taken on new purposes (no longer are we really taking photos for photo albums). Sometimes when I see other people taking photos, I instinctively follow suit. Or when I see people capturing a recent good time on Facebook, I wonder why I didn’t capture mine. But this is exactly why Facebook has become obnoxious and unhealthy — everyone is trying to prove that they exist, and are having fun existing. People read their newsfeeds and become self-conscious about their own lives, and then seek to make sure they look like they’re having a great life, too. It’s truly an unbearable cycle that makes us less appreciative of our present situations. That’s why many of my friends who have deleted their accounts tell me they feel more in tune with their lives — instead of comparing theirs to everyone else’s. They know they exist and don’t feel a need to prove it, but are rather focused on experiencing it.

Of course, not all photos or videos end up on Facebook, and like I said before, I understand sometimes they have merit. But photos and videos have taken over the way we socialize, and I don’t think it’s for the better. So I encourage everyone to leave their cameras behind and leave their phones in their pockets next few times they do something social.

And when you’re doing something really grand like seeing the new leader of a homophobic, anti-feminist institution, just snap a few photos. There’s really no need to record an entire event that hundreds of other people went to. Plus, if you really need to see it again, it will probably be on YouTube.

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