Monday, April 21, 2014

Strike a Pose? No, Thanks: Why I Don't Take (Many) Pictures

The last time you logged onto Facebook, what did you see? Was it a cute selfie of your best friend and her boyfriend? Maybe it was your roommate’s night out with her sister. And I bet you didn't care, did you? As much as I love to know what my friends are up to, most of the time all I think is, I DON’T CARE. Unfortunately, that’s just part of what social media is for. Sites like Facebook allow users to share their experiences with their friends in a convenient, virtual setting. But too much Facebook may be doing more harm than good. A study from the University of Michigan showed that frequent Facebook users were more emotionally troubled than those who used the site infrequently, and another study showed that the more people were on those types of sites, the more envious they became of their own friends. And what has proven to be the worst culprit on social media sites? Photos.

We’re certainly not the first generation to take photos. I’m sure most of your mothers had you squeeze in close with your brothers and sisters for a photo on Christmas morning or take a break from sun-tanning on your family vacation to “smile for the camera!” But I don’t think even our parents could have anticipated the mass amount of photos millennials insist on taking. My Facebook newsfeed has been constantly flooded with pics of some blurry color blob that my friend claims is Beyonce’s concert or a table of empty glasses that were once filled with booze which I guess are supposed to signify a “great night” but just looks like a “hot mess.” Let’s face it: people love to share their experiences. But in sharing, they are actually forgetting.
Recent research has shown that individuals who took pictures of something were less likely to remember it. Psychological scientist Linda Henkel found that when people took pictures of an object in a museum, they had more trouble recalling small details later on. “When people rely on technology to remember for them,” she said in an article for Psychological Science, “It can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences.” She says people who take pictures often rely on their camera to remember the event for them rather than being fully present.

While looking at a picture after the fact can actually help jog your memory of the event, be honest: how many of you actually go back through and look at pictures you took last year? You don’t. You post them for other people to see. And what’s worse is that this action can actually harm your personal relationships. A U.K. study reported that people who frequently posted photos to their social media accounts did more damage to their personal relationships. When you’re constantly posting photos, research has shown that your family, friends, and colleagues begin to feel alienated. The worst perpetrator? The selfie. While all photos had this distancing affect, selfies proved to be particularly damaging. So while you may think that your makeup is so cute this morning and you have to show the world, just remember that it may be doing more harm than good.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love taking the occasional picture. When you’ve spent hours getting done up for a formal event or met up with a friend you haven’t seen in ages, you want a photo to remember it by. Plus, my parents always appreciate feeling like they’re involved in my life by just scrolling through my newsfeed. But I’m wary of relying on photos to capture everyday experiences. They’ll worsen my memory, alienate my friends, and I’ll most likely never look at them again. That’s why I choose to put down the phone and enjoy the experience. 

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