We live in a world where it’s never been easier to stay connected.
Emailing, texting, and messaging through our social media accounts make it possible to share experiences with family and friends, not to mention our larger networks. But lately I’ve felt that nagging feeling that I’m missing out on real experiences—that all this capturing and sharing of moments means that I’m not experiencing them fully.
Here’s an example: I’ve been that guy who took a video during my favorite song at a show, only to realize once it was over that I spent most of the time fiddling with my phone and trying to get the best angle. I basically missed the song in my effort to capture it. Not only that, but all I had to show for it was a poor quality video that no one would want to watch.
This got me thinking that I need to make a change. I started looking for ways to engage a little more in the real world, and let the virtual one take a backseat. I’m not about to go back to a flip phone or anything, but I have found a few hacks that have helped me keep my phone in my pocket.
My hope is that these tips can help others strike a balance between documenting life and experiencing it:
1. Count to 10.
There are times when the impulse to whip out my phone and take a photo or a video hits, and before I know it, I’m scrolling, sharing, and commenting, missing out on the memorable moment I’d hoped to capture in the first place. Sometimes it’s enough to just delay that impulse a few seconds.
By counting to 10, I either forget about using my phone, or I’m better able to snap a photo and then put my phone away. It’s enough time to get me to think, “Do I really need to use my phone right now?” but not long enough that I’ll miss the opportunity to snap a photo of my great seats at the baseball game.
2. Set a limit.
We all know that kids grow up way too quickly, and the big moments of their little lives are so precious. There are some moments that just have to be documented for posterity, not to mention for the grandparents. But a good friend of mine told me she sets a limit on how many photos or videos she can take.
When her soccer-obsessed daughter went to her first women’s professional soccer game, she snapped a few photos of her decked out in her jersey and when they arrived at the stadium. After that, the phone went away and they watched the game together—just the two of them. There were plenty more times she wanted to take photos and share them, but she treasured the one-on-one time she had with her daughter, with no interruptions or intrusions.
3. Plan device-free activities.
Sometimes extreme measures work best. Setting limits on my own activity can be complicated, especially since whipping out my phone is often an automatic response to a great moment. Instead, I occasionally plan activities where I’ll leave my phone at home or in the car.
Say I’m going to see a Broadway play and I want to make sure I really enjoy the show (and avoid getting in trouble, since all photography is banned inside the theater). I’ll just stash my phone somewhere safe before I head inside. This keeps me from getting tempted. Some events work better for this than others. It might be easy to leave your phone in the car when you’re at the beach, but a little more difficult during a daylong music festival. Finding the balance here is everything.
4. Go easy on yourself.
The temptation to share experiences is a good thing. We’re so fortunate to have a way to connect with parents and friends who may be far away, even though the accessibility of our social networks can be overwhelming. And for people like me, staying connected and sharing my experiences is an important part of my job. So I try not to beat myself up about it if I feel like I’ve been documenting more than I’ve been experiencing. I may have missed that one song, but there will be plenty more moments to enjoy, even if I have to describe them later from memory.
Whether watching a once-in-a-lifetime game or seeing a favorite artist from the front row, events can make for some of the most memorable moments of our lives. And I’ve learned that while it helps, photographic proof isn’t the only way to ensure that an experience stays with me. By setting down the phone and allowing myself to be truly present in the moment, I’ve been rewarded with some of the most deeply satisfying—and truly memorable—moments of my life.
Author: Adam Young
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis