Thanks to the convenience of mobile devices, most of us spend a fair amount of time online these days. In fact, GlobalWebindex—which has tracked the time people spend on various forms of media since 2012—reports that digital consumers are online for an average of six hours per day. To be online for more than one-third of our waking hours affects us as individuals and a society in everything from productivity to the way we communicate.
Because of our online proclivities, exposure to digital images has hit unprecedented numbers. Researchers blame “image overload” for heightened anxiety and memory impairment. And in order to feed social media, people are going to extremes to gather photos. A sad sign of the photo-addicted times can be found in the ever-growing entry on Wikipedia titled “List of Selfie-Related Injuries and Deaths.” Started in 2014, the list has generated almost 60 entries to date—all to spawn likes for social media.
What’s our fascination with photos? Throughout history, photos have captured moments and recorded memories. With the advent of social media, we’ve used these images to share stories and communicate—something humans loved to do long before social media (think cave art at Lascaux and the Parthenon frieze). So photos and social media are a natural pairing, but how is that these digital platforms of actual recorded memories cause memory impairment?
The brain requires unstimulated idle time to process information from short-term memory to long-term memory. So from surfing the internet so much, we suffer from information overload, which can reduce the brain’s efficiency over time. When immerse ourselves in online distractions, we aren’t allowing our brains enough opportunities to create long-term memories.
Perhaps our ability to create “a Kodak moment” changed a few years back when the company itself filed for bankruptcy. Around that time, in 2012, it seems the goal changed from taking a photo to capture a moment in time to posting pics for the sake of L’s on social media.
At the risk of sounding old fashioned, it might behoove us all to roll back time. Next time you find yourself feeling the urge to take a photo for social media, stop for a moment and capture that moment in your mind first. And later that day, close your eyes for a few minutes, focus on your breath and allow your mind to go idle while it transfers short-term information into memories.