Want to Create Lifelong Memories of Amazing Experiences? Science Says Stop Doing One Thing

Yep: Taking photos and videos to share on social media can make you less likely to remember things you loved doing most.

Barbara Ferra Fotografia/Getty Images
Barbara Ferra Fotografia/Getty Images

Over three-fourths of Millennials say they value experiences over products. Most also value social currency — the average Millennial spends 5.4 hours on social media each day. (Which means most non-Millennials do too; despite demographic generalizations, we’re all just people.)

In short, we love experiences. And we want to share them.

Unfortunately, that means we’re less likely to remember those experiences as well: Research shows people who document and share their experiences on social media form less precise memories of those events.

Or as the researchers say, “These findings suggest that using media may prevent people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve.”

Keep in mind the act of taking notes, or photos, or videos does not affect how much people say they enjoy a particular experience. What it does is affect is their memory of those events; later experiments showed those who recorded and shared their experiences performed approximately 10 percent worse than the people who did not.

So you’ll still have fun… but your memories of that fun will be hazier.

The reason why is at least partly based on the way we store information. Some information we decide to remember; in other cases, we decide to remember how to retrieve certain information. Making a mental note to pick up milk on the way home means placing a memory in internal storage. Adding “get milk” to a written to-do list is placing that memory in external storage — you’re remembering how to remember something you wish to do.

In terms of creating memories, that puts your focus on how you will remember, not “what.”

Another reason why we tend to remember less also has to do with focus. Say you stroll inside La Sagrada Familia. You may never go back to Barcelona, so naturally you want to remember the experience.

But you also want to share the experience.

So you pull out your phone and start taking photos. You spend time framing each shot. You look for dramatic lighting. You look for cool perspectives. You work hard to capture photos and videos your social media friends will like.

That means your focus is not on what you are seeing… but what you are doing. Your focus is on sharing your experience — which means you won’t remember it as well. Plus, the emotional impact of an experience is diminished because you aren’t as mindful of the experience.

Instead of allowing yourself to be in the moment, you’re thinking about sharing the moment. The result is what one researcher calls the “photo-taking impairment effect.”

That impairment occurs even true if you don’t plan to share the photos or videos you take; another study showed that participants who did not photograph objects were more likely to remember them.

Makes sense: Even if you don’t plan to share it later — and therefore aren’t thinking about how your social media circle will respond — taking a photo switches your attention off the object and onto the act of photography.

If you love experiences and want to better remember those experiences, try a different approach.

Take a few quick pictures or videos that will help you capture the moment.

But don’t focus on impressing your friends. Just record a few details that will later help you remember the moment. Then put your phone away, and be in the moment.

After all, likes come and go, but memories last forever — as long as you put your phone away.

Originally published at www.inc.com.

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