Technology getting in the way of quality memories

(Graphic by Lena Yang)
(Graphic by Lena Yang)

The complaint is starting to get redundant. At the beginning of every term I have at least a couple of professors who spend time talking to students about the problems with technology in the classroom. Laptops are distracting to you and the students around you. Texting is disrespectful in class. You’ll retain information better if you take notes by hand.

I don’t doubt the validity of most of these points. But I also think that these complaints point to a bigger problem – one that the professors voicing them and students who are ignoring them aren’t recognizing.

People are unable to identify the appropriate situations to use technology in. More specifically, we need to learn when to put our technology away and enjoy experiences firsthand. The problem begins with people who seem bent on capturing every second and every angle of their experience.

At concerts it seems to be a new trend to have your phone or camera perpetually pointed at the stage filming the performance or snapping shots of the lead singer. Later, if you turn up the volume on your phone loud enough, you might be able to make out what they were singing.

Or, if you squint hard enough, you can more or less tell that you were definitely at a Beyoncé concert like you said you were. Basically you just paid money to go to a concert where you spent the entire time capturing low quality “memories.”

Maybe you are travelling abroad. Your bank account is not exactly happy right now, but you’ve been looking forward to this for years.

For some reason when you step off the plane you are seized with the uncontrollable desire to document every aspect of your surroundings. You’re only satisfied when you’ve taken at least three photos of everything you see, just to make sure you’ve really captured your trip.

The same goes for the everyday experiences we engage in. At the gym, it seems like most people are unable to put down their phones for the span of their workout.

Is it really necessary to be texting while on the elliptical or sending a snapchat in between sets? In the same way, do you need to be checking your phone every few minutes when you’re hanging out in-person with a friend?

I’m guilty of this, too. I sit in class with five different tabs on my laptop open, my eyes darting to the clock every few minutes in hopes that time has sped up and class will be over soon.

I worry about holding onto the moment when I’m on a trip. But recently I’ve really come to realize that, beyond wasting my money, I’m robbing myself of the experience.

Maybe the compulsive documentation of our experiences is a symptom of our fear of the ephemeral. We’re so afraid of memories slipping away that we’ll do anything to ensure they live on in photographs.

Even if you didn’t spend your entire trip taking photos or the entire concert with your phone out, it still fragments your experience.

No photo or video is going to be able to capture the true experience of being there in person. So why try when it’s only going to detract from your real memories?

I’ve made a new goal to make a conscious effort to immerse myself in whatever it is that I’m doing. If I’m going to go to class, then I’m not going to be texting or on the internet, I’m going to listen and contribute. If I’m going to go on a trip, I’m not going to worry about holding onto the moment, I’m going to focus on enjoying it in the first place.

I think this is something we could all make more of an effort to do. If you’re going to take the time to do something, do yourself the favour and get the most you can out of it. Otherwise, maybe you shouldn’t be there at all.

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