Connecting Moments and Neurons in the Digital Age

Recently, I listened to an interview on NPR called, “How To Stay Afloat In Your Infinite Stream Of Photos.” If you feel buried in photos like I do, you may find these tips useful:

  1. Thoughtfulness. When “making” photos, be thoughtful and mindful. Notice how I did not say “taking.” We make photos: we see the shot, frame it, and then “make” the picture.
  2. If it’s worth sharing, it’s worth printing. If you share this picture with the world, it’s probably a keeper.
  3. Use online photo centers to manage photos. Many online photo centers have easy ways to capture memories. You could set something up, for example, to make a photo book after every 500 images. (I suppose the key here is to be consistent, so you don’t get behind.)

Friends, I’m behind. My pictures sit in a cyber waiting room, neglected, forgotten…unconnected.

But I did do this….once.

A page out my son’s baby book. Here I have all the grandparents on one page. A proud moment. I was so ambitious.

Don’t forget those neurons

What I found particularly fascinating in the interview was that despite our fanaticism in picture-taking, we do not actually review their photos at a later time. During the interview, a psychologist remarked that by not reviewing photos, we are not activating:

“…those neurons in our brain that are involved in creating a memory experience.”

She went on to say that we when we look at a photo from the past, we experience the moment by looking at a shirt, remembering that color of shirt, that place where you wore it, what you thought about at that moment. You re-experience the moment by activating those connections.

Remember in the pre-digital age when we had a limited number exposures on a roll of film? With one photo left, we steadied ourselves, and attempted to capture the moment with genuine sincerity. Nowadays, with unlimited photo-taking, many photos are taken to capture the “moment.”

My husband will easily snap thirty or more pictures of a “moment.” Often, I don’t even know when he’s taking the picture and you can tell. I’m in mid-sentence, in motion, not looking at the camera, slobbering, whatever. It’s a picture worthy of the trash bin. As my kids have trouble sitting for more than two seconds, and I, personally, feel compelled to not miss a thing, we have gotten into this habit of overtaking.

The best shot out of 65 photos and example of my kids sitting still. The bonus: If you flip through these pictures on a computer, it's like a stop-motion movie.
The best shot out of 65 photos! And, an example of my kids sitting still. The bonus: Flipping through all these pictures is like a stop-motion movie.

Analog days

Beyond photos, I began to wonder how else we are not connecting those neurons. In our more simple, analog days, I could recite phone numbers, remember designated channels of TV shows…I could spell words. I could pick up a paper and understand the power of a singular headline. I might savor a re-read of a letter I received in the mail.

Now, I take in so many headlines, tweets, videos, images, and photos. In social media, many comments I type, I send off never to be read again.

My brain has no method to reconnect with these experiences. With all this information at our fingertips, it seems somehow harder for our brain to access. Isn’t is ironic that in our quest to fill ourselves with so much information, we are diminished in our capacity to retain it?

Stop to make connections

I no longer think it’s an early onset of Alzheimer’s. When my memory is slacking, it is my brain signaling that  I am on overload, memory full, connection lost.

It is perhaps a signal to take my head out of my screen to notice my surroundings. For example, observe the fake plant in the corner or realize I know the person standing next to me. And like “making” photos, I need to make my information more meaningful.

It’s my summer project to commit my digital memories to paper, and hopefully connect those neurons and realize memories. I will focus on the keepers and maybe not make quite so many photos.

There’s always the old-fashioned way. I can close my eyes and make a mental picture.

href=””>Birth Into Being via photopin <a href="