Missing the Moments
by Kathleen Wang
Growing up in a tourist family, I’m all too familiar with the words “capture the moment!” My parents insisted on capturing as many “moments” as possible, filling up album after album. In a society dominated by technology, it becomes all too easy to get lost in the gadgets and on capturing the moment, rather than living in it. Doctor Linda Henkel of the University of Fairfield, Connecticut, has termed this phenomenon the “photo-taking impairment effect”, where the compulsive, even mindless, act of digital documentation results in an impairment of the physical and emotional sensations from enjoying the moment. This issue, especially pervasive in the 21st century, affects the very fundamentals of our society.
While the thoughtless act of clicking a camera shutter or pressing ‘record’ on an Iphone may seem harmless and innocent, in truth this tiny action has big implications. New York Times bestselling authors Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield conducted a recent study on the effects of social media on happiness. Of the 1,623 people surveyed, Maxfield and Grenny found that over 50% believed that “posting the perfect picture has prevented them from enjoying life’s experiences.” Too often, the need to capture an experience interferes with the experience itself.
Besides its significant impact on individual enjoyment, the strive to “capture the moment” also risks a social disengage. The act of digital documentation creates a physical screen — of Iphones, cameras, or otherwise — between people, offsetting the intent of social events. As television host Conan O’brien once remarked, “Instead of faces, I see a sea of Ipads.” Some celebrities have even prohibited cameras at weddings or social ceremonies; Nick Denton, head of the Gawkers, argued that they can “tend to their virtual profiles the next day.”
Of course, there are people who offer a different perspective on the photo-taking impairment effect. While some believe in the negativity of digital documentation, others see the “capture the moment” phenomena as a positive force for themselves and society. Dr. Henkel notes that many people regard such photos as “rich retrieval clues” that will aid them in remembering an event in the future — making that perfect moment timeless. To those people, capturing the moment becomes more important than living in the moment. Still others argue that capturing instants is more a form of communication than of memory cues; Professor Maryanne Garry of the University of Wellington cites Snapchat, an app where taking photos initiates conversations, as the example.
However, no matter our opinions on this point, it is a fact that an overemphasis on “capturing the moment” has become a pervasive issue in society. To address the issue, society first needs to be aware. And in the age of technology, what better way is there to spread cognizance? Social media hashtags such as #LiveInTheMoment and #LiveForToday could go a long way; in fact, society has seen many movements ignited by hashtags, such as the #BringBackOurGirls and the #HeForShe campaigns. The first step toward change is awareness, and only awareness can precipitate the future.