A recent study published in Psychology Today claims that digital photography, and the flurry of modern mobile apps that enhance it, are robbing us of our actual memories. The study sent students through a museum, asking them to photograph certain artworks while solely observing the rest of the art. The participating students were better at recalling details of the artwork they did not photograph.
“The act of photographing the object appears to enable people to dismiss the object from memory,” the study concluded.
“When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves,” Dr. Linda Henkel, who conducted the study, told The Telegraph. Sounds ominous, but this psychological concept has been an aspect of human civilization since way before the advent of cell phone cameras, heck it was even a valid argument during the time of Socrates.
“Photographs are just another way of outsourcing our information,” writes PolicyMic scientist Brooke Horton. “This reliance on technology doesn’t make us dumb or less human. We are just pairing our mental capabilities with technology.”
Ultimately all memories fade, whether we Snapchat them or not. Oftentimes when we remember our childhood birthday party, we are recalling a mental image that corresponds more accurately with pictures we’ve seen taken at the party. Photos are about capturing the moment we want rekindled in our minds in the long run, for posterity’s sake, even if the act of photo-snapping itself is paradoxical to helping us instantly remember.
Perhaps it’s a bigger paradox of life, that if we do you live in the moment, cameras turned off, our favorite moments will inevitably be washed away with time. Perhaps that’s what makes the glory days so bright, the fact that they will too soon pass.