Everyone take a moment to stop and look at your Instagram accounts. Look at your profile image, your handle, and then all of the photos you have posted — not just in the past few days but your whole history of ‘gramming and amateur photo taking and adding Valencia and Brannan. And look at your captions, your hashtags, your “@s” and your #TBTs.
Now hold that in your head for a moment.
A recent article in The Atlantic Cities reported on a study about how camera phones modify our memories. The gist is that because we’re spending all of our time focusing on the actual picture taking itself, we’re failing to store those events as clearly in our brains. (Similar to the way one father did in this video during his baby’s birthday — missing the cuteness right in front of him so that he could post a photo about it to Facebook IMMEDIATELY.)
But this isn’t entirely news, is it? All of us have experienced the post-fact realization that we weren’t actually in the moment because we spent all of our energy focusing on capturing it.
However, the study points out that reviewing our own photos, much like studying notes after a class (which, as you wrote them down, weren’t you more concerned with capturing each word and also wondering, “Is going to be on the test?”) has a much greater impacting effect on our memory.
“Which raises the question,” writes the author, “when was the last time you actually looked at your own Instagram feed? Or did you simply create it for the benefit of others?”
So now go back up to the top. Remember what I asked you to do? Did you actually do it? (Did you take notes?) Do it quickly so we can carry on.
To answer the author’s question, the last time I looked at my own Instagram feed was just now. I’m always looking at it. But I suppose I have two purposes while looking at it depending on my mood. The first, as the article’s ending query suggests, is on behalf of others. Just as a contributor once wrote for MR, pretending to be someone else looking at my Facebook page is one of my favorite past times: “…look at that—she’s fun, she’s smart. That’s a hilarious photo of her as a baby.”
However, I also use it as a visual diary. I look at it to remind myself of perfect beach days during the summer, relaxing weekends, and time spent with family. When I’m in a bad mood I’ll often scroll through photos of me and my friends, or the screen shots of our stupid text conversations. When it comes to fashion my phone acts as a catalogue of images for the sole purpose of remembering — shows, appointments, new designers, (things to buy); my personal Instagram feed is a photographic reminder of what I’ve seen and what I’ve loved. Every once in a while I’ll come across something or someone I completely forgot about and it brings me back to that exact moment in time.
Being present, or conversely, not being present, is a constant conversation these days thanks to technology at the forefront of interactions. Should we put down our phones more often and stop to smell the roses? Absolutely. But if we can learn to enjoy the flowers in real time, and then have access to them later, maybe our Instagram accounts aren’t so bad for our memory after all.
Now what about you?
Image via Stockholm Street Style