Creating Memories in a Digital Era

An increasingly large percentage of our lives is lived on the internet. If you eat a posh meal, you may feel the need to post a photo of it on Instagram. If you’re hanging out with friends, you’ll want to get a group selfie to share on Facebook. Those things can feel like fun in the moment, but the reality is a bit starker. Evidence suggests spending too much time online can mess with our brains. A lot of screen time can make us anxious when we think it will calm us down. Social media is not a cure for loneliness. It might even cause it. Here’s how to create memories in a way that lets you use the internet without becoming overly reliant on it.

Create phone-free zones

Think about the last time you went out in public. Chances are, you saw people on their phones. You may have even been the person on your phone. One study found subjects checked their phone an average of 77 times a day. That means you’re unlocking your phone at work, in your car, and at the gym. You may even be unlocking it during Sunday morning church services because you want to check the lyrics of a hymn.

Once you get in the pattern of checking your phone, it’s easy to get stuck. Your brain wants that reward that comes with checking your phone for things such as Facebook notifications and Instagram likes. In fact, compulsive Facebook users have brain patterns similar to drug addicts. Now, a Facebook addiction probably won’t land you in jail, but it can seriously mess up your life.

The best way to avoid this continual feedback loop is to create phone-free zones. These can be at dinner with your family. If you’re having coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in months, ask the friend to put away the phone while you chat. This allows you time to focus on the friend sitting in front of you rather than the latest Twitter news. All those sites and apps will still be there after you have coffee. You have access to that information anytime you want it. But coffee with a friend is rarer and should be cherished.

Spend more time on your photos

Let’s say you take a really stellar sunset photo with your iPhone’s camera. You can post it online in two minutes or less. All you need to do is find the right filter, plus maybe post a caption. But you don’t have to post a photo that quickly. You can use digital photos you take for other purposes.

Look around your house, for instance. What’s on the walls? Are they empty? A few years ago, you might have had a calendar, but nowadays, you can just use the calendar on your phone. And you probably don’t feel the need to have a photo collage in your living room when you can store hundreds of photos right on your phone.

But you can use the internet to create better photos and display them in your home. For instance, photos of your wedding day look fine on your phone, but an online canvas printing of you and your spouse cutting the cake will look even better. Sometimes, it’s nice to have photos that are more tangible and don’t require you to whip out your phone and say, “Check this out.”

Don’t make everything a #moment

Not every cool experience has to include a hashtag. If you’re having an outdoor adventure with friends, it’s fine to show off your new dirt bike helmets on social media. But then put the phones away and focus on what’s around you rather than what’s inside your device.

If you’re walking down the street and see a rare bird, that’s nice, but it doesn’t mean you have to grab your phone. You can just appreciate the bird without snapping its photo. The memories that live in your head can be even more vivid than the ones that live on your phone.

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