Want to Make Lasting Memories? Put Down Your (Camera) Phone

Jumping for joy

Take a picture, it will last longer? I don’t think so. Not in your mind at least. Chances are that those precious memories have most likely relapsed from your memory and installed themselves onto that of your hard drive or fluttered away up into a “Cloud.”

Dr. Linda Henkel, a human memory researcher at Fairfield University in Connecticut, has identified a “photo-taking impairment effect,” which means that people remember fewer details of memories after taking a photo vs. not taking a photo at all and only observing the moment.

In other words, you’re basically counting on your camera to do the job of memorizing rather than taking it into your own hands — or, should I say brain.

When we take a picture, we send a signal to our brains that the camera will retain the information for us so that we don’t have to. Our brains absorb much more information than we intend to store, so by taking a picture and knowing that the information can be recalled through some other means (i.e. digital image), we basically give our brain the go-ahead to skip the task of storing it.

The same theory has been applied to our use of search engines. In 2011, a study found that people were less likely to remember information that they believed they could “Google” later on.

Here are some tips on improving your photo-taking practices, to stay better organized and keep memories intact:

Organize
If you can say that the digital videos stored on your computer are neatly organized, you are one of the lucky few. With the dawn of personal digital photography came the hoarding of photos. It’s easy, it’s quick, and you never run out of film.

You may not have heaps of nostalgia piled up on your desk, but I bet you have a vast jungle of jpegs aggregating on your hard drive, waiting to be tagged and categorized. Start off on the right track by organizing what you have, deleting the beer pics that you posted on Facebook during Happy Hour and other futile remembrances, and keep what you love.

Don’t be trigger-happy
A study by Shutterfly reported that Americans take on average more than 10.3 billion photos per month. The next time you whip out your smartphone, be mindful. Live in the now.
Not every moment deserves a paparazzi. Turn obnoxious photo-taking habits into a practice of capturing images only after you have truly soaked them in and deemed them worthy of being exalted into photography heaven, aka the Cloud.
Don’t take so many pictures that thousands of them remain in purgatory waiting to be sorted through. Make them count and organize them as you go.

Look back
My husband and I started a tradition of looking back together at our old photos every year on our anniversary. It is not only a nice way to spend time reminiscing, but it will also improve long-term storage of the events and will push you to keep your photographs organized. Grab a friend or loved one and look back on memories while making new ones.

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