Smartphone capturing versus true life experience: Matt's Memo

President Obama in Syracuse as smartphones capture the moment.

The instant the President jogged up the stairs and out onto the raised platform hundreds of smart phones popped up in the hands of the crowd assembled to witness the presidential speech. Each person felt compelled to personally capture the historic moment with their iPhone cameras.

The smart phone capture off that moment is both selfish and magnanimous in its motivation. There is an element of bragging that comes with sharing on social networks. That's a big prize on Facebook or Instagram to post a photo of the president in your midst. It also includes your absent friends in the excitement of the presidential visit.

There is unprecedented ability in our world to document life from the grand to the mundane. So many of us carry a sophisticated miniature camera with us wherever we go. It is a tremendous collective power of communication. It shrinks the globe.

As I examined one of the photos I took yesterday of the President entering the Henninger High School gymnasium I was struck by the dozens and dozens of iPhones raised in the air. Everyone grabbing an image for themselves. The problem is this. Hardly anyone was simply watching, listening and experiencing the moment.

We have become so intent on recording the event we are not taking time to enjoy it, to let it wash over us. Even when it's a visit by the President of the United States we get to the end of the appearance and thumb through our actual memories we find there is little there. We can glide through our stack of camera phone images, but they don't actually exist in our mind.

Here's what we risk losing with this new digital mode of operation. We once looked back at photos and enjoyed the experience of flipping through the album because it recalled fond feelings of that summer vacation, that birthday part or holiday celebration. It is not the image itself that carries the power, but the emotional connection that comes with it.

What happens when we look back at digital stacks of photos where the emotional data has not been stored in our own memory? The joy, the tension or the serenity of the instant captured does not return. We end up only remembering the photo and not the real life experience.

Just because we have the ability to capture every moment of our lives it may be worth considering a better balance between taking the picture and actually living.

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