Beyond the picture perfect premise of photos

photograph memory impact brain

Our world is but a living maze of images. Everywhere we see, all around us, from the minute we wake up to the moment we sleep, pictures bombard our lives. It can be as personal as a selfie being the DP of your phone or relational like the multiple faces that greet you as you compulsively log on to your numerous social media accounts to mark the start of the day or very remote, or unconnected what and howsoever images of celebrities, brand endorsers, achievers et al that exist somewhere there glancing and smiling and grimacing and doing what not they can to validate their presence. Because that’s perhaps one reason why we take photographs- for holding validation in a world highly transient in its memory. When we click pictures, we indeed are preserving memories of a moment in time, acknowledging of course the people or entities present in them as a way of harkening to the past in some future time to relive all those experiences in rumination. Photographs perhaps are protecting of our identities, in holding tight on to a physical appropriation of us even when we are long lost in the trenches of oblivion, whether by death or in such existences that reflect as only a faint shadow of our earlier self. In this extent therefore, photos are profound enough devices that the human being lives through even when we do not essentially or exclusively go click, click in all frenzy out of such acute awareness in psychology. Rooted still in such references though the real assertion of realisation does not really take over frequently enough, it is no wonder that photographs and photography is something we all are more or less inclined to somehow.

photo taking impairment effect
Source: THEME

So if creating memories, or rather preserving or holding onto them is what pictures afford us in all our different levels of obsession with it, it would strike as rather surprising that photographs themselves harbour the power to have in fact a negative impact on our memory. By providing something concrete to hold on to as a rumination in time, photos might in fact be weaning our brains to be less adept at holding on to them in what shapes the primary understanding of memory. In ‘outsourcing’ therefore the memories to an external agent that we instantaneously turn to now as almost part of our nature thereby undermining that accreditation of status to the brain instead, we perhaps are allowing the most important organ of the human body to cut some some slack and conditioning it such that it experiences a slowdown in ability as well as ‘aptitude’ for recording the memory, even when it is a function of which it is primarily tasked. In residing in the knowledge that there is no need as such for us to fully retain the information pertaining to that episodic moment because we have clicked more than enough digital snapshots of it that can serve as triggers of bringing back that memory in as merely simplistic routines of just needing to browse through them, we are also less likely to pay our full attention in encapsulating all aspects of that occurrence either knowingly or otherwise, leading therefore to only a partial awareness of them. Naturally then, in not allowing ourselves a fully immersive exposure to the moment, we are already making it difficult for our brain to effectively capture all facets of that experience which is why it fails to recreate them all later simply because it has not had enough and wholesome access to the necessary elements.

It though isn’t just the knowledge that the photographs would be readily supplying us matter to rekindle those past flames for life that has us less involved in the experience. It also as much is the physical act of going all snaps that draws away our attention considerably from what entails us at that moment in living. Because for all its worth, photography is ultimately an intricate enough art imbibed within the professedly accurate realms of technology for it to be an experience itself commanding of all our senses. Photography might be a hobby for sure, and indeed a passion as well and it can as likely be one’s choice of vocation or avocation, but in moments like these that concerns the living of life in all basic understanding of it in literal terms, this incessant click of the camera serves to be a distraction. Taking over the cognitive resources shaping up the internal images of the brain is this pursuit of an art dynamic enough in its call for attention to detail, hinging on just about every possible exploration of awareness to deliver a pic, or more accurately at least more than a score of them, so much so that it ends up encroaching upon virtually every speck of grey matter and renders it therefore mostly inefficient to attend to other functions, even when these are the ones for which it has been originally ‘designated’. Limiting therefore the primary scope of the brain in opening it up instead to other avenues of working, perhaps somewhat in line with the doctrine of evolution, photography, much like any other exploration of not innately human nature, diverts the brain from its modus operandi considerably thereby serving as a distraction to its capturing and retaining of memories. And no, it isn’t just some vague idea of how we look for loopholes to exploit to avoid the almost terrifying tentacles of technology threatening to gulp us all that makes up this whole theory of ‘invasive’ photography. Rather it is a phenomenon surprisingly real, so much so that has even earned it reference in scientific terms as the ‘photo taking impairment effect’.

Beyond such generalisation of how too much devoted a dive into going click all the way can hamper the development of memory in the brain, there exist indeed specific areas as well that are particularly affected by this mindless almost spree in capturing just about every essential or inessential moment of lives. Taking photos of such settings that are essentially conjuring up of notions of the aesthetic such as a scenery for instance might not be such a bad idea but in relation to such experiences that are not primarily visual in their intention, the photography craze is not quite the ideal way to preserve them in memory. Because photographs are first and foremost visual illustrators of reality, what is perceived by the eye in physicality can translate to a comparable enough experience through the lens as well. But when the area of concern caters to the other senses of the human awareness, photography might dim further the brilliance of their dawning as experiences to savour. Food photography for instance, as a compulsive, almost ingrained mannerism of going about your eating experiences is a case in point. Despite all of us craving for those droolworthy dishes the minute we set eyes upon them, albeit in their pixelated avatar across a digital medium, this trend of Instagramming all things edible by giving in to that really powerful urge of capturing the perfect portrait into the finest frame might in fact be signs of some mental illness. Particularly with such people whose food behaviours are already not so much in sync with the desired dose of a healthy appetite, this risk is all the more alarming.

However, this correlation isn’t the only reason why excessive photographing needs to come across as a concern. Much like with food, that which is primarily concerned with taste and nutrition and health, and only secondarily with deciphering its beauty in essence, other explorations of life like entertainment for instance can also be impaired in their pursuit by making them exclusively about digital memories. By concentrating on snapping images throughout the entire duration of a concert and specifically with the intention of portraying your hip life on social media, you are ruining a potentially enriching experience meant to enthuse your soul. In seeking recourse to the technological to document such moments of life meant for experiencing first and replaying later, you are robbing yourself of the privilege that pursuits as essential as these can entail by steeping up your life in fulfilment.

These downsides of photography might be all very stark in their revelation but one particular aspect of what sums up a substantial exploration of what is very much an essential life activity today is the phenomenon of taking selfies. As a wholly ‘revolutionary’ buzz that has taken over the photography vibe, this fancy of capturing oneself all by one’s own is eluding of none. But what is surprising is that despite the ‘hazards’ harboured by too intense a compulsive desire of clicking selfies being far more known to all, this is still a trend no one shies away from. Often called out for its notoriety in being replicative of characteristics of the narcissistic demon is the selfie craze that has even spurred the recognition of selfitis as a medical condition. But other assertions in which this universal plaguing of the selfie bug has connived to bring a bad name upon the activity of photography itself can be equally remarkable. From such potential social impacts like straining relationships with others by unnecessarily flooding their timelines with a deluge of self photos to being harbouring of excessive vibes of superiority and equally contradictory assertions like a negative perception of oneself arising out of lesser likes scored on those postings, the seemingly fun indulgence in taking selfies can be an expanse of rather potent misdemeanors. Continuous exposure to too wide a gallery of photos can lead to heightened anxiety as well, while continuing to impair our natural ability of the memory and negatively impacting concentration as well. And there needs no reiteration of how unapproving specialists are of exposing young individuals too early too much to the lenses due to them being hampered in their emotional growth and development by falling prey to such not so ideal images of what photographs find replication in. With such an expansive network of intrusive means that still photos- too many of them- find their way into the living essence of the human world, they end up distorting indeed our version of reality if allowed to find treadings into every aspect of existence. Of course we need to capture memories and not just in the brain, in photos we indeed preserve such things of beauty that are eternal sources of joy but the trick is as always to strike a balance between such elements that underwhelms and that which overwhelms so as to strike a pose perfectly encapsulating the beauty of our life.