In this day of social media, it has become so rare not to see someone on their phones. So much so that in every gathering, the first thing many want to do is take pictures and post them online—often forgetting to savor the moment instead. Join Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen as they dive into how phones ruin our experiences and memories. They discuss how technology has made huge impacts on our mental health. Why has it become a norm in today’s world? Do we really want to sacrifice the life we have right now just to get validation from people on social media? Let us claim our lives back and listen to this episode as Jason and Whitney elaborate on the importance of spending our time building memories without having to be on our phones all the time.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
How Phones Ruin Our Experiences And Memories
My sister came to visit me in Los Angeles for the first time in over ten years. It was exciting. It was during the 4th of July weekend. We did a road trip. I was thrilled about sharing moments with her and going to see some different parts of the state that I hadn’t been to. I did most of the coast drive. I had never been to a Big Sur, some of these beautiful parts of California and neither had she. It was an incredible experience to see it in person. My sister and I are close.
On this trip, we had a lot of experience bickering, which is not that uncommon for us, I suppose. My sister is one of those few people where I feel comfortable bickering. I feel like I can allow myself to get a little bit angrier. I don’t have this fear that our relationship is going to get ruined over a fight. That is rare for me because, in general, I avoid confrontation. I have fears of losing friendships, which had happened before, in times that got heated. The trauma of being upset about something and expressing that to somebody else has caused this fear in me of doing that. I generally try to avoid confrontation. Because I feel comfortable with my sister, I will allow myself to go a little bit further knowing that, at least up until now, we work through it.
The source of most of our bickering on this trip was that she was using her phone a lot. This is something that has been more triggering for me when I’m around somebody that I care about. When I’m doing something that I perceive to be special and important, I feel sensitive when I see people using their phones. Due to my deep interest in the impacts of technology and our mental health, the more I learn about how all this time that we spend on our phones is detrimental to us, the more that I’m trying not to do it myself. Also, the awareness that I have when other people are on their devices.
Watching my sister scroll through Instagram while we’re driving through beautiful parts of the country was challenging for me. It’s due to the fact that quality time is one of my main love languages. That feeling of wanting to spend quality time with someone but they’re distracted because they’re on a device generally makes me feel sad. I feel lonely. I want to talk about this because we’ve addressed technology and its impact on mental health and specifically, how many people will use their devices much to not only prevent boredom but to communicate out of this fear that if they don’t respond to a text or an email quickly enough. If they don’t spend enough time on social media, they’re going to miss something. All the FOMO and this weird pressure that we have on time. Even on vacation, many of us feel like we have to constantly be connected, which is part of this. It’s weird to me. I haven’t experienced this with my sister but with other people.Don’t sacrifice the moment you’ll never get back. Click To Tweet
I generally don’t say anything. When you’re hanging out with somebody, they’re texting somebody else and it’s not urgent. It’s bizarre. I can’t remember if I mentioned this in the show but this happened before. I saw a friend of mine for the first time since COVID started and I purposefully put my phone away. I put it on Airplane Mode. I thought, “I’m going to be present with my friend because there’s nothing urgent for me to do.” My friend, on the other hand, was texting one of her friends off and on throughout the entire time I was with her. Because I’m heightened in my awareness of this, it stood out to me. In the past, I wouldn’t have noticed it as much. I remember sitting there going, “Why is she texting somebody else when I’m here with her?”
Honestly, it’s become commonplace that many of us don’t think that much of it. It’s become socially acceptable to do things like that. The more that I step back and observe it, the more bizarre it is. Be as if you were hanging at a friend’s house and they randomly invited somebody else over. They started hanging out and talking with them and completely excluded you from the conversation right in front of your face. We probably wouldn’t do something like that. It’s commonplace for someone to pick up their phone and send a message because many of us perceive that like, “It’ll be really quick.” This is part of what my sister was expressing. She’s like, “I’m not spending that much time doing it.”
A lot of times, we don’t see this within ourselves. Somebody will observe it more from their perspective than we observe in our perception. It was this constant pick up the phone, look at it, respond to a text and put it down and repeat a minute later. There’s a pause. Maybe the scenery isn’t as beautiful. Our brains will get bored for a second and we immediately think, “Time to use our phones.” I was watching and finding it is incredibly bizarre. I was grateful for that because it caused me to think about my behavior.
In my life, I’m trying not to turn to my phone to reduce boredom because of how I observe how it’s interrupting our social relationships. It’s a huge issue. The other side of this that came up while I was scrolling on TikTok, ironically, I came across this video of a guy talking about an article he read from Ideas.Ted.com. This article is titled If you really want to remember a moment, try not to take a photo. This was published in September 2017. The timing of this was important. I’m also shocked that it was written years ago and I haven’t seen this article.
The other element of this experience with my sister is the process of documenting and how many of us use our phones whenever we experience something special. We want to document it. It’s becoming incredibly commonplace that a good percentage of people that have a meal want to take a picture of it, “Our food is pretty. Let me take a photo before I eat it. Let me take a video.” If you go to a concert, it’s common for people to document the concert.
There is a meme going around, it’s like, “Remember that nobody wants to see your photos and videos of fireworks after the 4th of July.” It’s is true but yet when we see something beautiful or exciting like fireworks, many of us have this knee-jerk reaction of, “I’ve got to go document it.” How many of us step back and ask ourselves, “Why? What is the purpose of it?” How is that impacting us in the long run, especially socially? What’s most interesting about this article is that it also talks about how the brain processes things differently and does not hold on to memories as strongly if you take a picture of them.
I haven’t read the full article. I’m going to do that over the course of this episode as Jason is speaking. My gist from what I got from this other video I saw was that when we take a photo and we put all this emphasis into capturing the photo and then looking at it afterward, our brain remembers the photo more than it does the experience. The point is that the way our brains process when we take a photo, we don’t remember all of the other details of the experience and our brain goes, “That’s a lot of information to store. I will use this photo and store that memory of the photo instead of all the other details.”
Our brain will throw away the details because it’s not worth storing if we have the photo. That’s what the case is. I’m going to verify that as I go through the rest of the article but I thought that was fascinating. It’s another reason to spend our time savoring and taking in the details of a situation versus trying to capture it to catalog on some hard drive for what reason? Some of my big questions are A) Why do we spend so much time on our phones instead of paying attention to our surroundings and the people that we are with? B) How much of a disservice are we doing for ourselves by documenting so much? Ultimately, it seems like our phones should not be something that we spend that much time on because they’re deeply interrupting our present experiences and our memories. To me, it sounds like a bad thing for us psychologically. What do you think, Jason?
My mind immediately goes to what life was like when I took photos before I had a phone that had the capability to take photos. Prior to the iPhone, Facebook and Instagram, I remember my last phone, before my first iPhone was a Motorola Razr flip phone. The camera on that flip phone was crap. I recall taking pictures on that Motorola Razr and the quality of those photos was not worth sharing. I might text them to a friend but I certainly didn’t share those photos on any social media platforms.
Let’s go back to the ‘90s early 2000s. Taking photos was only something that I would scrapbook or share with my close family or close friends. If I think about the physical photos that I took back in the day, those were never meant to be shared with anyone outside of my immediate circle of people that I was close to. I wasn’t going to go to a random stranger on the street and go, “Look at my trip to the Himalayas. Isn’t that cool? Aren’t I worthy of your affection and praise? I went to the Himalayas.” That’s what we’re doing.
We are capturing these memories to get praise, attention and validation from tens of thousands or millions of strangers on the internet that don’t know us and we don’t know them to show them, “Look how great my life is.” Think about that. Prior to camera phones and social media, we never did anything like that. We didn’t share trips from our weddings, trips from our child’s birth, our darkest moments, our moments of depression, our moments of triumph. We didn’t share photos of those moments with anyone except maybe the closest people in our life.
To me, there is a huge part where we have a socially acceptable ego validation that is tied to capturing those moments. There’s a commodification of moments now. It’s like, “I must capture this cute dog. I must capture this meal. I must capture this trip where I’m on the balcony of the Greek Coast and this beautiful shot of the ocean.” Why are we doing it? We’re not doing it through our camera roll. Sometimes I’ll scroll through my camera roll and I’ll go, “I remember that party and that great thing.”
For the most part, we have commodified moments in our lives now where we’re using them as social equity to show how great our lives are. Prior to this technology, we never did that. There was no reason to. I did not take photos of my meal prior to camera phones and social media. I didn’t take photos necessarily of these seemingly innocuous moments. It didn’t happen. In some ways, technology has created this socially acceptable behavior you’re describing.
I made dinner with my girlfriend’s mom and her family. It was the first photo of a meal I had taken in more than a year. It felt good because I reflected on the fact that I’ve been eating meals and not feeling like I need to document every meal I’m making. You and I were caught in that behavioral pattern for years. You go out to a meal and what’s the cliche phrase that everyone passes around in our industry? It’s, “The camera eats first.” Screw your camera. Have the food. I say that because I did that for years, too. I can say that and also call myself in on that behavior. I don’t have any desire to document that stuff anymore.
I want to go back quickly. While you were explaining the dynamic between you, Mary and some of your thoughts and feelings on the unconscious usage of the phone, you mentioned that there are two things. She had never been up that part of that coast. There were things that Mary hadn’t experienced and things you hadn’t seen. Knowing you for many years, in my observation, you thrive on novelty. When there’s a new experience, place, food, you get excited. I also noticed that when other people aren’t as excited, you’re like, “Why aren’t you as excited?” I get that, too. When you were observing Mary in those moments, what was your process of observing that? Were you judging her? Were you angry at her? Were you frustrated? What was your emotional process in observing her behavior? What did that feel like when you were observing? I’m curious what your response or reaction was to that.
I felt lonely at times and frustrated. It sucks when you’re the one driving and the person next to you is on their phone because you can’t do it yourself. There’s almost an experience of FOMO but there’s a major disconnect. This is something that’s irritated me on road trips with people that spend a lot of time on their phones because it feels isolating. It’s like there’s a wall up. You might as well be with a stranger when they’re deep in their device.
One of the things I love about road trips is taking in things and getting away from life. I love that about driving because you have to focus on the road. My whole life, I’ve enjoyed documenting things. I’ve been taking photos and videos before smartphones were around. It’s something that I appreciate. I appreciate the art form and the ability to recall, reminisce and going back to the things that our brains don’t remember having that photo there is a nice keepsake. It’s nice to be able to share that with someone. Photography and videography are fantastic.Spend your time savoring and taking in the details of an experience rather than trying to capture it to catalog on some hard drive. Click To Tweet
I understand the desire to capture it. To your point, I also understand the draw to connecting with people, the pressures that we have to respond to. I’m also hyper-aware of how other people are feeling. I’ve personally perceived it rude to be on your phone when you’re socializing unless A) It’s urgent. B) Other people are doing it and you’re like, “I might as well.” C) If there’s a specific reason for it. When someone is excessively on a device, it feels rude, especially when somebody asks you not to do it and you continue to do it.
My dynamic with my sister is that she is rebellious. The fact that I asked her not to do it probably made her want to do it more. She perceived me as being controlling. I sat back and reflected on that. I thought, “Am I trying to control her?” I don’t believe so. It was bothering me. It’s also distracting. I am hyper-aware of details. When I’m trying to focus on something, I’m distracted by sound and movements. It’s a lot for me while I’m driving and seeing someone on a device, listening to things, watching videos and reacting to things.
It’s also that missing-out experience. Someone’s in their little world seeing photos, videos or talking to people and that natural curiosity, “What are they doing? What am I missing? They’re having fun without me.” That gets triggered too. The biggest feeling that I identified is the sadness of not being able to experience something with someone. Driving through beautiful parts of the country and taking it in, that experience for me is magnified when the other person sees it too.
One of the reasons that we do document things is that when you’re at a concert, for example, it’s like, “This is incredible. I want to share this so that other people can experience it too.” That’s a huge part of social media. It’s not necessarily to brag, “Look at what I’m doing and you’re not doing.” A platform like TikTok, for example, I love going through and seeing what other people are doing because I decide if I want to do it as well. That’s one of my favorite things about it. I love getting new ideas and learning things from people. That element of sharing, there’s a lot of layers to it.
Over the years, I’ve noticed the use of photography and how it takes away from people and this distraction that it causes. We know that our focus, as human beings, is greatly impacted by that. We do not have the ability to multitask the way that we think we do. When people say that they’re listening but they’re typing away and texting, they’re not hearing what you’re saying. Plus, there’s much more to a conversation than what you hear. Seeing somebody’s facial expression is a huge part of it. When someone’s texting or using social media while they’re having a conversation with you, they’re not picking up on the whole thing and their brains are not able to process what you’re saying. The other level of this is incredibly frustrating.
My sister, in general, is easily distracted. It’s tough for me to see her on her phone because I’m not even going to bother saying something until she’s off her phone. I know she’s not going to fully hear it. I can’t stand it. When someone’s like, “Do that.” They are indicating to you that they hear you and they agree with you. They put down their phone and maybe an hour passes and you’re like, “Remember when that happened?” They’re like, “No.” You’re like, “You said yes and you indicated it.” They have no memory of it. We’ve trained ourselves to give cues as if we’re listening to someone when we’re not. That’s disturbing, too.
It’s this awareness that I have of how crucial socializing is to us for our mental health and how much technology is getting in the way of that. That’s a deeper level of. It’s not just my personal experience. I’m naturally compelled to encourage people to do things that are good for them. Seeing someone like my sister, who I deeply love, behave in that way, it’s not just about it bothering me but how many other people are bothered by it but don’t say anything because they don’t feel comfortable saying it? How many other relationships are impacted by that behavior? As an older sister, I care about my sister and I want to help her out. I know I can’t control her and I’m not in charge of her. I want to encourage that behavior and highlight something, like, “This isn’t about me, this is about you and how this behavior might be slowly degrading other experiences and relationships.”
It would be interesting if people were a lot more radically honest about their experience in the sense that when you talk about this conditioning where people are like, “Got it.” It would be interesting if people were like, “I care more about what’s happening on my phone, my text or my social than listening to you right now.” I don’t know if that’s the case. I don’t want to make a sweeping generalization in every single instance but that seems pretty accurate to me when someone does that, “Got it.” I’ve done it in a conversation too, when someone’s going on and on about something.
The reality is I don’t have the courage to say, “I care about you but I don’t care what you’re talking about right now.” Instead of saying that, we go, “Uh-huh. Cool.” To me, it’s a translation that means, “I don’t care what you have to say. I do care but I don’t have the bandwidth. The thing I’m focused on is more important than what you’re expressing right now.” People don’t say that because it might be hurtful. Don’t you think it’s implied when people do that? If people were to say that, “I care more about this than what you’re saying right now, would that hurt more or less for you than, ‘Got it. Cool?’”
In the long run, it would be beneficial for us to be more honest about that. It also is important to recognize that we’re being manipulated by technology. Most people don’t understand how their brains work. I barely do even though I’ve studied a lot of the psychological elements of the brain, that’s a passion of mine but there’s much about the way my brain works that I don’t understand. We’re taken advantage of that.
A lot of the apps that we have and websites that we use are designed based on studies of human behavior. In subtle ways and maybe somewhat harmless ways, we’re manipulated. Many people know it’s no secret that platforms like Instagram, it’s in their interest to keep you on there as long as possible. They’re rewarding you for staying on there by giving you this stimulation. What happens is we have gotten to this point where that stimulation feels good that we prefer it over a lot of other experiences. To me, that is where a lot of the danger lies. This is why it is drastically impacting our relationships.
We talked about AI a few episodes ago where it’s likely that human beings will choose to be in relationships with Artificial Intelligence over each other because we can control it and we can protect ourselves emotionally. In a lot of ways, we can get pleasure from something without having to deal with the human consequences. This is part of it too and part of your point, Jason, is that most people can’t even articulate, like, “Right now, scrolling through Instagram is more pleasurable than having a conversation with you. What I’m seeing on my phone is more interesting than what I see outside the car windows as we drive through California.”
When you ask me about the judging side, I feel a little judgy. I’m like, “We’re driving through an area that is very likely you will never return to.” Whereas what’s on your phone is permanently there unless it’s an Instagram story or something that disappears. You could go back and look at somebody’s Instagram photos or videos anytime. As long as they don’t delete it, it’s there. This area that we’re driving through A) You may never return to it. B) It’s never going to be the same as it is at that moment. There are too many variables. It can be burned down or destroyed in some way or another. There are many factors to the present moment that you will never get back and yet because of the way these apps have manipulated us, we have been conditioned to believe that is much better for us.
Going back to the judgment side, I understand the human desire to experience pleasures. I understand that some people find pleasure in one thing and some in another. It’s not my job to determine what pleasure is right or wrong or better or worse. As we’ve alluded to in some episodes, I tend to want to prioritize nature. I see nature has a bit superior to technology. Even though I enjoy technology, ultimately, nature wins out. Spending time looking around the scenery, seeing the ocean, and rolling hills that, to me, feels more important than looking down at my phone.
What’s complicated about this is that if you do not have an awareness of how your phone is detrimental to your brain in some ways or manipulating you, it may seem weird if somebody encourages you not to be on your device. It’s like, “What’s wrong with it? Everybody has these phones. Everybody’s using them. This is socially acceptable behavior.” If somebody is coming at it from this approach of like, “Not only is this important to me for you to be off your phone but I’m encouraging you in hopes that you’ll recognize your dependency on this device. Also, how it might be inappropriate or rude in general. Maybe there can be a shift.” This is part of the reason it’s important to talk about in this episode, there’s so much ignorance and that ignorance is taken advantage of.
This bizarre time that we live in, which I don’t understand the roots of it. We’ve talked about this before, the urgency in which replying to a text or an email and how many people feel like they have to constantly be accessible. This is triggering you, I can tell. What is it that you’re feeling about that communication urgency right now? I’m bringing this up in the context of a vacation, which my sister was on and I was trying to take a break from work too. The entire time that I’m away from “work,” I’m still thinking about it and wondering if I’m taking too long with something or not doing something on time. Am I missing something? Because technology allows us to constantly be connected, we can often carry the anxiety of not doing enough and not allowing ourselves to take a break from it, which certainly is detrimental to our mental health. What is it for you that bothers you much about that?
I don’t know that we are going to be able to recondition people away from this desire for immediacy and urgency with everything. What it is, is not the conditioning of people wanting things right away. It’s the volume in which those requests come and I dealt with. Here’s what I mean by that. In my life, this is what is trying to command my attention, it’s my personal inbox, the YouTube email, I have connected to my YouTube channel, the Wellevatr email, and the client that I’m working with. That’s four different email inboxes. There are three different Instagram accounts, there’s mine, there’s Wellevatr, and my clients, all of which have direct messages that come in not every single one daily but DMs to respond to, which I’m backlogged.
On Wellevatr, I caught up. On my client and my personal, I have dozens of DMs to respond to, four inboxes and three direct message inboxes on Instagram only. Think about all the inboxes I’m ignoring, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I’ve pretty much abandoned that over. The point is many people are now, on a neurological level, wired for anxiety and constant, “Let’s get it done. Let’s do this. Come on.” All the time. I am trying to slow down in my life. It seems that what I was dreading is happening. When I say what I was dreading, I mentioned this in previous episodes, I’ve been dreading the world opening back up in “normalcy.” I’m seeing that manifested now in people back to work habits that they had before, which is urgency, anxiety, speed, “Let’s get this done. We got to get it up by this time.”
I’m honestly in a mode where I don’t know how I’m going to operate in a business context moving forward in my life where many people are in that mode. It seems that for certain people, there’s always a fire to put out, everything’s always urgent and needs attention. It’s interesting to bring up rebelliousness because we’ve talked about my tendency as being a rebel. There’s a part of me that wonders as I’m slowing down and I feel things are not urgent. I’m not besmirching anyone’s perspective on things. If we think about it, there are few things that are super urgent. People act like things are going to fall apart if the thing doesn’t happen.
If you think about it, what urgency means to you? “Something of harm will come if I don’t do this thing. Something will happen where there’s a massive ripple effect that may do harm or put someone in danger.” That’s how I define urgency. Most of it is not in that category. Most of it is like, “I might offend someone. They might think I’m unreliable.” If we think about the desire and the anxiety of urgency, usually we’re afraid of another person’s perception of us or our actions or non-actions. That’s how most people perceive things that are urgent, “This might piss someone off. They might be upset with me. I better do it.” I’m not saying that’s not important.
We talk about the importance of relationships and social interactions. Real urgency, most things are not in that category. It pisses me off and it irritates me when I see people running around with their pants on fire and are like, “We got to get this done.” I’m like, “No, we don’t. Yes, it will get done but you were running around with vinegar in your panties and freaking out.” That’s why I got triggered when you said that. I’m noticing now that as the world opens back up and things are restarting, how people are defaulting to that old style of behavior is massively triggering for me. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to deal in business relationships moving forward. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to deal with people like that anymore. I don’t know if that’s possible. I need to manage my approach to it differently because I don’t think I’m going to be able to avoid it. I need to adjust my reaction and my response to it somehow.
It’s a lot about boundaries, in my opinion, and personal preferences. It reminds me of this conversation I was having with my Beyond Measure Group. One of the members brought up how it’s bizarre that a lot of offices have dress codes. She said, “Who are we dressing up for? Why are we doing this? Each other? What’s the point? How is that determined to be professional?” I was fascinated by that.
There’s a lot of anxiety that people have right now in going back to the office because they feel like they can’t dress comfortably. How they’ve dressed when they’ve been working from home is how they want to dress. I’ve been feeling that too. Going out again, to meals, any type of socializing, I feel much anxiety about how I look to others because I’ve been spending a lot of time at home wearing whatever I like. The plus side is that now I’m aware of what I truly feel physically comfortable in, which I had a more surface-level awareness of before.
What you’re describing seems similar and that you have a pace that you feel comfortable at. That doesn’t mean you have to adhere to it. You could miss out on opportunities if you go at a different pace than others. You might not be a fit for certain business relationships, personal relationships if you don’t meet somebody else’s standards. On the other hand, you don’t know that those people are attached to those standards until you talk to them about it. They might be operating unconsciously thinking that’s the speed that they have to go to because somebody else was going at that speed. I’m a big fan of communicating and saying, “This is not working for me and here’s why. Can we do things differently?” It’s easier said than done. It’s hard to verbalize those things.We spend so much time on our phones instead of really paying attention to our surroundings and the people we’re with. Click To Tweet
In June of 2021, I had been struggling with focus. I’m finding it hard to finish some projects. I’m still experiencing some of that. I had a lot of fear around how long it was taking me to get things done. I was examining that and recognizing that I was projecting this belief that if I didn’t get something done at a certain speed, it wouldn’t be acceptable. I would miss out and I’d be rejected. I sat with that and thought, “I don’t feel like I’m fully able or willing to go at that speed. I’m okay with missing out.” Like with certain forms of communication, there’s plenty of people, personally and professionally, that I haven’t responded to yet. Some people, months or years go by.
There’s part of me that intends to get back to them one day. There’s plenty of people that I never get back to because I know myself and my email inbox. A huge percentage of emails never get responded to. It’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because I didn’t have the energy or the bandwidth at that time and it wasn’t a priority. It’s not in a rude sense, like, “You’re not a priority.” It’s simply the case of what’s going on in my life. That’s okay. The consequences of that for the most part, have been pretty minimal. To your point, when working with clients, I found it’s rare that there’s a deadline that has to be met. It’s okay in a lot of those scenarios, especially if you communicate it. That’s where I found the key.
In certain dynamics, if I communicate, “This is how long it’s taking. This is approximately when I will get it done. Are you okay with that?” Generally, the answer is yes. There are some times where I don’t respond to people or communicate that to them. If they give me a sense of importance, then I will tend to act faster because they’re creating some urgency. For example, if someone messages me multiple times, I get the sense that it’s important for them to hear from me. Those are all about creating those boundaries.
We can also express to other people what our personal preferences and boundaries are with time. That ties into this conversation in the sense of articulating to someone when something is bothering us, when something feels like it’s hurting us or it’s causing us to not enjoy an experience. It’s incredibly important for us to verbalize that. It’s not necessarily going to be easy. There’s a ripple effect to it all.
Going back to this article that I brought up, one thing that is fascinating to me is that when we take a photo of something, we’re counting on the camera to remember it for us. We’re telling our brains, “I don’t need to think about this any further.” Our brains don’t need to process it on certain levels because we’ve outsourced it to our cameras. Our camera can capture the moment instead of our brain. That comes back around to our dependence on technology to do things for us, which is pretty cool. Depending on how your brain works, it’s handy to have tools. If you’re a forgetful person, writing a list, taking a photo is helping you. It’s an aid. Are you weakening your brain’s ability? Can you work on remembering things? Can you practice it? Can you build that muscle? It depends on your brain.
This article is an excerpt from this book that came out in 2017 called Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self. This article has a lot of tips about “boredom” and how that’s beneficial to us. One thing she points out is that when we’re on our devices, we have this constant stream of, “What’s next?” We never fully embrace any of the experiences we’re having. Going back to your question earlier, that gets to the core of what bothered me. I want to be with my sister because it was a special time. When she was on her device, it didn’t feel like she was fully embracing the present moment that we will never be able to experience through our phones. We could take tons of photos.
When we were driving through Big Sur, which for people that don’t know, it’s on the Coast of California and it’s these huge cliffs, rolling hills and crashing waves. It’s stunning. I noticed how different it was to me from the photos I had seen of it. I had this idea of what Big Sur was. Experiencing it in person was beyond any of those expectations that a photo or video created for me. Likewise, my sister kept saying that no matter how hard she tried, none of the photos or videos she was taking along the way did it justice. She kept trying over and over again, like, “If I do it this way, maybe if I capture it from this angle.” She kept doing it and saying the same thing, “It doesn’t look as good.”
It’s important because it’s true that no matter how many times she goes back and looks at those photos, they’re never going to capture what it was like to have that experience in person. That’s why if we can step back for a moment and ask ourselves, “What is the purpose of this? Are we trying to use our devices as a way to compensate for our brain’s ability to forget?” My photo of Big Sur will probably never look good as a professional nature photographer. What if instead, I experienced it in person and then went and looked up thousands of photos available online, which are probably done with better equipment and more intention than me snapping a quick photo. That can shift my relationship to taking photos as well, which is something that came up in this article about taking fewer photos.
What’s important is capturing a photo of my sister in Big Sur. I don’t need to capture the waves or whatever else. It might make me feel good for specific moments. For the most part, somebody else has taken that photo from a similar or same angle and I can go back and look at that. Nobody’s taking a picture of my sister in the way that I have. That I feel is nice. Perhaps what I can get into the practice of after reading this article is intentionally savoring the moment and looking around at all the details and saying, “What’s happening right here? I can hear the sounds of the waves. I can smell the air.” That’s not going to be captured. The sound of a wave from a camera but even so, the microphone doesn’t pick it up in the way that your ears do.
Can you stand there and take it all in? If it’s important to you, take a picture as well to enhance that memory. Can you take fewer photos? That’s important too. I recognize this time and time again, the photos don’t ever quite do it justice. I’m wasting all of that precious time and energy taking a photo trying to get it right. No matter how hard I tried, it’s never going to compensate for the real in-person experience that I’m savoring.
Going back to the purpose, as creators, for you and I, Jason, and any of our readers that are also content creators, I’ve noticed there’s this pressure to capture in case. It’s like, “Let me document it so if I want to later, I can post it.” That’s the other thing I’ve experienced. Being around friends that use social media not only is taking photos and videos but taking you out of the experience. We’ve been in that position of maybe you don’t want to take a photo but the person with you is taking one.
There’s that awkward moment where you’re standing there waiting for them to be done taking the photo or they’re asking you to take pictures of them and they’re posing. It becomes this whole photoshoot and you’re like, “I’m trying to experience this restaurant but now I’m being asked to take all these photos. They want to look at them decide if they’re photo-worthy.” From there, many people have this urgency, like, “I got to post it right now.” Often, people will post their photos at the restaurant and that means that they’re going on Instagram and pick the photo that they want to use. They might edit it and then they’re going to likely write a caption and put all this thought into it while you’re there.
My sister was doing a little bit of that, not excessively. She’s not a content creator but she does use social media. She’s making Instagram stories, Snapchats and typing in a little text on the screen and all that stuff and posting it immediately while she’s there in the moment. There’s no urgency for the person on the other side. They don’t care if she posts it right then and there or later. The other side of it is the person receiving it does not have any of the emotional attachment to that moment that you do at that moment. When I post a video of myself in Big Sur, likely someone’s going to look at it for one second and scroll right past it and go on with their life. Maybe they’ll savor it and say, “I’ve never seen Big Sur. I’m glad I saw it through your lens. You’ve inspired me to go.” That, to me, is the best-case scenario.
In one of the areas, we were in on the coast, we saw whales out in the distance. There was no way I was going to be able to capture that well with my camera. I didn’t even bother. To me, seeing a whale out in the ocean with my own eyes is remarkable. To somebody else, unless it’s a good photo or video, it means absolutely nothing to them. Why would I put all this effort into capturing something for somebody else and then using that precious moment to share it with somebody who doesn’t care nearly as much if at all as I do? If I’m not getting paid for it and if I’m not doing important work, why would I ever sacrifice that moment I will never get back?
One thing that I wanted to comment on when you were talking about how taking photos is shifting the responsibility to the camera and digital technology to be the storehouse of our memories, it flashes to me on a couple of things that are related. When we were starting this podcast, one, in particular, comes to mind but there were a small, several handful of people that were encouraging us not to do long format. They said something to the effect of people’s attention spans are not what they used to be. People want quick, bite-sized content. This was pre-COVID, pre-work at home. The average daily commute is between 20 and 30 minutes, “You guys should do a podcast that’s between 15 and 30 minutes.” We didn’t want to do that. If you are with us this long, we’re 55 minutes into this podcast. We sometimes go 90 minutes to 2 hours long.
Part of that was that Whitney and I made a conscious decision to say, “We understand the statistics. We understand what you’re saying about people’s attention span being degraded due to technology. We’re going to do it the way we want to do it. If people only want to listen for fifteen minutes, great, only listen for fifteen minutes. If people want to listen to an hour podcast, great.” For two reasons, it’s important to create art and create content the way you want to. It doesn’t mean don’t listen to mentors or don’t take the wisdom and advice of people you admire. At the end of the day, you have to listen to your intuition and do it the way you want to do it. That’s number one.We are damaging ourselves unconsciously by documenting so many events rather than living them. Click To Tweet
Number two, it is important to do long-form content in a world that is thriving on short-form, bite-size, throwaway, digestible content. This is one of the reasons why I take umbrage with TikTok. I know you love TikTok. For the most part I do too. That along with Instagram stories and other platforms, are training people’s brains to lack focus and lack the ability to absorb long-form information, long blog posts, long newsletters, long-form content like this. People are being conditioned by technology and social platforms to see their focus being diminished.
People might say, “Jason, do you have any statistics to back this up?” I’ll look them up. For anyone who is in the content creation field or social media, you know that, for the most part, they’re backing away from long-form content and supporting long-form content. They increased TikTok videos to three minutes now. That’s good to know. That makes me feel good. In the pantheon of life, three minutes isn’t crap when you think about it. To some people, they’ll be like, “Someone made a three-minute TikTok.” I’m like, “Children, three minutes is nothing. You think three minutes is a long time because you’re used to seeing fifteen seconds.”
Sorry, I’m getting on old man on a long speech, “You can’t deal with longer.” It’s true, people are being conditioned, “I can’t deal with this. It’s more than 60 seconds long.” I’m worried about our focus as humanity and our ability to digest deep and meaningful long-form things. This is all to say that it’s not just photos but it’s information and content, in general, being this disposable, throwaway type thing. It’s having a negative effect on people’s ability to focus and retain information.
This is why awareness is important and being conscious of our priorities and articulating them. The more I reflect on things like this, I recognize that some people go through the motions and don’t give much thought to it. They’re driven by whatever makes them feel best at the moment. I also think on a deep level that as human beings, we’re wired to socialize and connect and be part of a group. We’re being pulled in a lot of different directions. Technology is not all on the same page. It’s not like all these companies are communicating and they’re like, “What’s best for the human species? Let’s all come together to develop things that make us all good people.”
The truth is a lot, if not most of these platforms, are driven by money. They know how to manipulate us like fast food can manipulate us to crave it based on what’s put into things, smells and the visual experience. All of that stuff is designed in a way to get us going back for more. “At what cost?” It’s the question. It’s pay with your purse versus a pay with your person scenario, which is the phrase Jason and I like to use. There’s nothing inherently wrong with fast food, in my opinion. If somebody enjoys eating French fries and burgers, I love that. It’s good. The salt, oil and sugar involved with all that stuff, we are designed to crave those. That’s how our bodies work. We crave those things.
When they’re giving us an excess at a good price and we don’t have to step out of our car because it’s through a drive-thru and our lives are feeling stressful, that’s a treat for us. Look at the conditions of our lives. This is part of my sister’s point. The bickering that we had was I was trying to verbalize how I felt when she was on her phone. For her, taking time off work for once since she works a lot to sit in the car and be on her phone was incredibly pleasurable to her, which felt like a vacation. She was afraid that I was trying to take away her pleasure.
I don’t have a problem with people using phones. I’m not anti-phone, anti-social media, or whatever, but it’s the excess in which we do these things and the long-term ramifications, plus how they’re making other people feel. Most people are in agreement that if you have too much fast food, your body is going to start to break down because it can’t handle all that processed food in your body. Sure, it might be pleasurable every once in a while. You’re maybe looking at it as some sort of a treat or reward or a phase that you’re in. Fine.
Technology is similar, where if every single day or we’re doing an excessive amount over a short period of time, it’s going to have a long-term impact on our brains. That’s what many articles are pointing to and that is scary to me because of the way that it impacts us as individuals and us collectively. We’re also rewarding these technology companies. If the reader hasn’t read me say this before, I know your point, Jason, and I certainly try to be aware of how TikTok stimulates my brain. I’m aware that I turn to it when I feel bored. I’m aware that I turn to it when I want to take a break. I’m also aware that it doesn’t usually make me feel that great.
What I do enjoy about TikTok is the bite-sized pieces of information, not just entertainment. I learned a lot in a short span of time. Another video I’d seen on there was someone talking about how dating apps are designed and how manipulative they are to us. It’s so disturbing to see what those have done for us romantically. We have not only the disposable side of like, “Swipe.” There’s always another person. As the article was saying, the what’s next thing, people use daily naps when they’re bored. I was thinking about that. I was like, “That’s messed up.” “I’m bored. I’m going to go on a dating app and see if anyone here stimulates me and makes me feel good about myself. I’m not interested in anything serious. I just want pleasure.”
That’s the big theme of this topic. There’s only wrong with pleasure in certain circumstances, but in excess, it can be bad for us. It can be hurtful to our bodies, brains and relationships. That’s a huge core of the mental health challenges that we have. It’s hard to blame the individuals because the individuals are probably not aware of the actions and the long-term ramifications of their decisions. As we said about the environmental side of things, we’re given a lot of pressure to be eco-friendly as individuals.
The truth is most of corporations are playing a bigger role in the destruction of the planet. If the corporations took more responsibility, then the individuals could complement and support that. How can you blame someone who doesn’t realize what they’re doing to themselves and their relationships when they use technology in the way that it’s been easily packaged and presented to us? “Everybody else is on Instagram, so I’m going to scroll through Instagram. Everybody else is using a dating app. That’s how I’m going to go on there and find someone. Everyone else swipes through quickly and ghost people, catfishes them and all of these acceptable things.”
We are manipulated by these companies to do the things everybody else is doing and finding acceptable without even recognizing how it could be hurting one another. That is at the core. I want to do less harm to individuals. I want to encourage people to share what’s hurtful to them and not be gaslit for it. This whole, “It’s not that big of a deal. Just let me go on Instagram. It’s not that big of a deal. I want to take twenty photos at each restaurant I go to.” You’re the outlier. “You can’t work as fast as me. That’s the way this company works.” The challenge is that when people don’t speak up about what’s important to them, nothing ever changes. Sometimes, when people do speak up about something that’s bothering them, they’re seen as the issue because they’re the outlier.
We do have a lot of big issues at play here that we need to talk about. We need to share what’s hurting us and recognize how this could be incredibly detrimental to us in our relationships in the long run. I’m curious what the reader thinks about this subject matter. This is definitely an episode we’d love to know your thoughts on. Ironically, one of the most common ways that we hear from our readers is through Instagram. I always say on my personal platforms that it takes me a long time to get back, but I read every single message.
If you ever send us a DM on our Wellevatr Instagram account, I see every single one. Jason sees most of them. He usually responds because I don’t like to respond. We certainly take in everything that you say to us and we deeply appreciate it. It’s overwhelming to me to communicate sometimes. Ironically, I don’t enjoy communicating through platforms like Instagram, but I do enjoy reading messages, similar to email. I truly mean it for you, the reader, when you send us messages, it’s so exciting. I absolutely love it because I feel connected to you. I don’t know why but my brain struggles to continue the conversation. It’s overwhelming to me.
With that said, if you would like to email us a response to this episode, DM us on Instagram or whatever other platform. If you have other articles or points that we didn’t bring up, if you want us to talk about it from a different angle, we also take requests. We love the back and forth. That’s probably the biggest downside to running a podcast. The majority of content these days, I enjoy the experience of a conversation with others. Sometimes, it feels weird to me to be the one talking and having someone listen without the ability to express themselves in real-time.
Certainly, live video helps with that, but we’re not quite at a point where that makes sense. Live videos on all these platforms still feel weird to me because people are just sitting there writing comments. It’s not the same. On my platform, Beyond Measure, every week, we have a video call together and we talk about whatever’s on our mind. If any of you are interested in that, please reach out to me and I can tell you more about. Jason, any final words that you’d like to share? Any final thoughts on this subject matter before we wrap up?
The whole episode has been a wonderful reminder to be more present and savor moments in life. The nature of this reality is temporal, fleeting, and ever-changing. I’m getting a lot of reminders to be more present in a lot of ways. Some of them loving. Some of them may be a little more challenging and difficult. The overall message to me and the thing I’m taking away is to remember to be with life and try to absorb as many experiences as I can, fleeting as they are. It’s been another great episode. I appreciate you bringing this up and I appreciate you sharing your process and your experience. We have special guests, so stay tuned, subscribe, and rate us on Apple Podcasts if you haven’t done so already. We’ll be back with another episode of This Might Get Uncomfortable. Thanks for reading!
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- If You Really Want To Remember A Moment, Try Not To Take A Photo
- Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self
- Wellevatr – Instagram
- Apple Podcasts – This Might Get Uncomfortable
- How Declining Attention Spans Impact Your Social Media
- Is Social Media Destroying Our Attention Spans?
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!