Sunday, December 12, 2010

Experiencing Life instead of Digitalizing It

I was listening to Spark today while chopping up some potatoes for a yummy lobster chowder (perks of having a lobster fisherman dad!). Spark is a tech-culture-idea program on the cbc, and you can listen via podcasts. A snippet of the program was about how perhaps our unquestioned techno-advances aren't necessarily advisable for creativity and human culture.

A professor at Ryerson University argued that our constant and increasing need to 'back up' every single memorable aspect of our lives digitally may in fact not be the greatest idea. She pointed out that our current need to photograph, videotape and blog every single memory, essentially transforms our lives into a digital experience. But, in order to be creative, in order to be efficient do our brains need to reformulate memories, forget things and transform how we think about the past?

I thought the interview was timely, as it definitely tied into a work conversation I had the other day. A co-worker announced that five years ago her family lost their entire house to a fire. She went on to describe the horrifying experience and we all marveled at just how quickly you can lose all your 'stuff'.

One thing that she said that really stood out for me was the fact that she has since changed her way of experiencing her family's life events. She used to be that person videotaping and photographing every single tiny moment of a recital, sports game or family gathering. She felt like she had to, that it was valuable. She even said she would feel jealous of how her husband really *got* to experience the event fully while she felt she needed to zoom in on her child's face, or catch a certain part.

After loosing all of their digital 'memories' she realized just how temporary digital files and photos can be. She now hardly ever takes photos or videos and instead actively experiences her life.
Andrew and I experiencing life- while I was reading my vows to him... Although there is a photo to share, my actual memory of this is just so much more special.

I think that is so important to remember during these times of digitalized lives. We try to document so much digitally that we lose part of the actual experience in the process. While practicing yoga we are constantly reminded to be an active and mindful participant in our lives. Then we leave the studio, our mat and enter our crazy lives. I actually feel guilty about not taking photographs of an event. Often I'll say something like- 'Oh I need to take a picture for my blog!'

In the past few months I've tried to make choices about how I use my time. Do I spend it blogging, writing on facebook or twittering? Or do I spend my evening hanging out with my husband, going to a pub with friends or practicing yoga with friends? Lately, my initial blogging days of a post every two days has decreased to about twice a week. A conscious decision on my part.

During these busy Holiday moments, shut off your cell phone, disconnect yourself from twitter and put away your camera. Try to be an active and present participant in your life. Once the moment has passed, a digital memory for something you really didn't experience in the first place won't cut it.

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Speaking as a yogi with a serious case of the geeks, this post resonates with me...

    I remember being at a friend's wedding a couple of years ago and while a hoard of the "younger generation" descended on the bride and groom's first dance with our cameras, one of the elder generation remarked what a different experience of life that must be.

    And I'm very connected to my digital world, but I do try to keep a little balance, too. I think it's important. So, sometimes I'll be all over taking photos of a place and time. Others... not so much.

    On occaision, I'll forget to take my phone with me and once I'm over the shock of not being connected, I usually giggle and enjoy my down time. ;)

  2. i agree, there is a happy medium...but to be able to look back and see the way you are looking at him in this photo? so so so beautiful!!!

  3. Thank you for an excellent post.

    I realized a while ago, that I can watch an event OR I can record it. Now I prefer to enjoy the moment instead of trying to preserve it. I hadn't considered before that this came out of my yoga practice, but I suppose it must have. I went to my daughter's band concert last week and completely enjoyed her solo, but I don't have a photo or video of it.

    One of my pet peeves in life is that people who are busily recording their child's moment, (at a school concert, for example, but I see it wherever there is a group a parents watching a group of kids) will stand in the way, taking photos, thereby blocking the view of the rest of the people who are there to see THEIR own children. People can be so weird.

    Sometimes I wonder what happens to the scrapbooks and memorabilia collections that people create. Does it become clutter?

  4. Great post. It amazes me how much I see people being in the digital world and ignoring the people around them. Going out to dinner, you see people texting, twittering, and what not, on their phone and not conversing with the person right in front of them. It's sad, but I am often one of those people. I think I need a once a week zero cell phone/internet day.

  5. I agree and don't all at the same time. Speaking as a photographer, documenting my life is important to me. It's part of who I am. That being said, I spend lots of time out with friends and never take photos of us. I am pretty good at putting my camera away and ignoring my phone :) It's all about balancing as fit for your life I think.

  6. i agree. in theory i would like to blog twice a week or so, but in reality it is more rewarding to be out there living my life or having quiet time at home cooking or making music and the blog can wait another day. and sometimes i'm so caught up in cooking i don't feel like getting my camera. also i don't have a very good camera right now so i haven't been photographing my food at all to blog because the pictures are terrible.

  7. I totally agree! There are so many times that I think "i need a picture of that for the blog". Blech. I'm letting that go! And, there is definitely something to be said for experiencing life and not just photographing it!

  8. I was thinking of this yesterday when I was in the mountains with my nephew getting our Christmas trees. I was desperately trying to take pictures of the boys while trying not to fall flat on my face in the ankle-deep snow. I thought for a moment: Am I missing the fun because I'm trying to get a good picture here?

    It was so much different in the 35mm era when we were so careful about taking pictures because it actually cost money to develop the roll! Remember that? Now we can take a million pictures all day long at no cost - which makes it tempting to "over-digitalize."

  9. i love the point she made- i've experienced it myself. that hard thing is i DO love photography and I think beautiful photos are art... argh, catch 22! I definitely try to live in the moment during experiences and events though, and limit my photography to sightseeing or landscape now.
    I am making a conscious decision for less time online, at least through the holidays! sadly, it cuts into my sleep... eek!! Hopefully my new early-morning classes I'm teaching will be the kick in the butt i need to get on a normal sleep cycle. this post is so timely, as I've been thinking about this lately!!

  10. I really agree with this´s why I stopped taking photographs. Sometimes, it´s ok to forget, not everything needs to be recorded, life flows, things disappear, that´s what happens.

    While I was looking at the guidelines for a festival I wanted to attend in Eastern Europe I found some guidelines for photography written by someone very clearly not speaking their own language....but somehow they perfectly express why I don´t want to take photos anymore.


    5. Cameras use only in camps, at approval of associates and that person whom you were going to picture. Also it is possible to go to walk to wood if you wish to embody the nature. On the basic glade and the general space nobody photographs.

    Looking at events and people through an objective, you do not participate in them, do not pass through yourself, and defer judgement until when you will look through the photos made you, and it already will be not that would be felt at the moment of live contact. Photographing leaves the person "in other reality", behind a chamber objective. In the absence of thoughts on that, as though to make a successful photo or how then to write that he saw, the person can plunge more deeply what to occur around, and to feel it in all completeness.

  11. I agree! I think it is getting worse now with cameras in phones, etc. People are seeing life through a lens or computer rather than interacting with people. Another of those amazing CBC documentaries pointed out that kids nowadays (of course this is a generalization) are better at expressing themselves through chat or email than in person. A little scary.

    Diego and I have been slack on the photos of late and our experiences are so much more enjoyable. We also typically ask those who are taking lots of photos to share...because there is a happy medium.


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