Photographic Memory

The lovely Alicia from Naps Happen stops by today to share her reaction to a video that recently went viral called “I Forgot My Phone.” Good stuff here, people. Be sure to watch the video. Enjoy.


On Wednesday, Wendy posted a really thought-provoking video, in which a young woman goes through her day without a smartphone while everyone around her tweets, talks, and photographs the same events. It’s really a sad video. Most of us could recognize our own behavior in at least some part of the two-minute film. The same technology that brings us all closer together appears to simultaneously drive us apart.

The most prominent way in which I saw myself in the video was in the compulsive picture-taking. Every time an important moment occurred, someone paused the action to take a photo, thereby moving his or her attention away from the wonderful moment and toward the smartphone.

But, hey, they got to share that moment on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, right?

I asked myself why it is that I suffer the same irresistible impulse to pause these seminal moments and document them. I’m not the only one. Certainly, I have seen a huge uptick, in the past two years, of parents all over the place taking “First Day of School!” photos and then, of course, sharing them copiously online. Then everyone “likes” everyone’s photos. We’re all in the first day together.

Yesterday, I almost had a panic attack when I thought, after snapping my son’s “First Day of First Grade” picture, that I had accidentally made a video, instead. I jumped up from my desk as if to retake the shot, but he was already gone. I fought the impulse to chase him down the street. What if I had missed my one and only chance to take that photo? How would I explain my mistake to him? To my friends?

But what happened to just remembering life’s sweetest moments?

Today, I ponder why we think that photos are a more valid way of treasuring the moments than the actual memories of the events. Even if photography is more accurate than the human memory, how does the taking of a photo potentially cloud your recollection of a moment you never wanted to forget? If you are seeing your child’s goodbye wave through the lens, does it have the same impact? Do we make the same connection when we’re saying, “Stand still! You’re making the picture blurry!”

Deep down, I think we’re all still keeping up with the Joneses a little. I think that, if I don’t take my First Day photo and post it for everyone I know, maybe I’m not as “good” at parenting. It’s like the infamous baby book. If you don’t do the baby book, did you “do” the baby time well enough? Did you treasure every moment like your friend, who saved a lock of hair to show everyone in a beautifully scrapbooked album later? People would generously say “yes,” but for the parent who didn’t manage the baby book, or didn’t do it well, there’s still a wistful regret and a wish to go back and try it over again. You think, if only you could have been organized enough to make that album, you could remember all those little moments forever.

I know I’m not going to stop taking photos and posting them, but I might make an attempt to break free of the smart phone a little more often. I’m going to try to let some of those precious moments transpire without photographic evidence and just believe that sometimes my heart will be a better memory keeper than the internet.

How did the video make you feel after watching it?

Alicia can be found sharing some unusual napping spots on her blog Naps Happen. Catch her Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Maribel Reyes says:

    Honestly it made me feel selfish… Because I take away from the moment. We’ve been limiting our time on tablets… It was easy to jump on the technology wagon it is not going to be as easy to jump off it.

    • Maribel,
      You know, I don’t think we are being completely selfish. I really thought about this a lot. I think we are trying to be the best parents we can be, but that seems to now mean taking a constant stream of pictures to “enjoy every moment.” I’m wondering if I can challenge myself to enjoy more moments without the picture! I think we all have good intentions, don’t you? I do agree it is very difficult to stop that impulse. It seems like a good thing to save the moment! I’m so conflicted.

  2. I saw that too and did kinda feel bad about “missing” moments in real life.. however, I have a HORRIBLE memory and even now people ask if I remember events from my childhood and I say no, but I remember the picture, so I do think that picture taking is important… I think it’s just all about balance… 🙂

  3. I have been dealing with this same guilt. Either way we miss something, right? I think I’d rather feel the guilt of no photo instead of the guilt of missing the moment. Great post Alicia!

  4. i felt validated. i’m in no way, shape, or form innocent of ever taking a photo and posting them on fb or texting them immediately to a friend/loved one, but i do it on my own time. i was one of the last of the adults that i know to acquire a smart phone, and i have endured countless occasions where i’ve either been put ‘on hold’ in face to face interactions to either: 1. allow someone to take their “really important phone call from their idiot brother who will just keep calling if i don’t answer!” like there’s no other solution to that problem. or 2. watch their staged ‘spontaneous’ moments from the recent past. i found it near intolerable.

  5. I must add a little sage advice to you ladies. I’m 62 and have been thru raising two beautiful boys who are now doing what you are doing raising little ones.

    I took actual photos and put them in a scrapbook which they now have and are able to show to their own little darlings.

    I don’t envy you girls, life is ridiculously hectic for you all in this tech age. While technology can be time saving it usually isn’t after all is said and done, because we get compulsive about it. YOU are the ones who can control that. Put the phones down, stop texting endlessly, your kids are missing quality time with YOU. Oh and ps so are your parents 😉

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