If You Want To Forget Something, Instagram The Hell Out Of It


Thanks to the ubiquity of digital photo capturing devices, nothing need go undocumented. Food? Instagram that shit. Baby? Vines or it didn’t happen. Engagements? #NoFilter #OMG And tag your new fiancee or otherwise no one will know. But although the intention of photographing everything from the banal to the momentous is to remember, the net result on your brain may be the opposite. That’s right: taking too many pictures of something might make you forget the very precious memories you’re trying to preserve.

At least, that’s according to a Fairfield University study that documents what researchers are calling a “photo impairment effect.” Researchers enlisted college students to take a tour of a museum. Some were instructed to take pictures, others were instructed not to. The next day, the students were quizzed on the objects they viewed. Picture takers didn’t fare as well as their brain-reliant counterparts. But the memory impairment didn’t affect all photo-takers, the Independent points out. Those who zoomed in on specific elements of the art objects they were photographing were able to recall what they’d seen with better accuracy than those who just shot the entire piece of art. Researchers concluded that this means that taking pictures of a thing makes you less likely to remember the thing.

Of course, the scope of this research is limited; it only tested next-day memory and not long-term recollection ability between two groups. The study didn’t take into account that after we’re dead, all that will be left is what we leave. Basically, what I’m saying is: good luck showing your brain’s precious memories to the great-great grandchildren you’ll never meet.

Still, the Fairfield research, at least, provides a nice talking point against the phenomenon of people watching concerts and events through their smartphone screens. The next time I’m at a concert trying to fight the light pollution of the iPhones incessantly Instagramming, I’ll just tap on the shoulder of the person in front of me and tell them in a matter-of-fact voice that the very act of photographing an event means they’re less likely to remember it. I’m sure they’ll value my advice. Right after livetweeting our escalating altercation.

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