Well, nature has decided that our main input channel is visual and we use our eyes to establish relations with people and things in our environment. Plus, it is relatively time-consuming to sift through images and deciding which ones to keep and which ones to chuck out. Most phones are not really efficient in their options to clean out stuff and usually it is easier to connect the phone to a computer and do it from there – something most people never get around to do! Just think: when did you last clean out pictures without being forced to because you were running out of storage space? Point in case.
When it all comes down to it, most of those pictures are only ever interesting to prove to yourself and others that you were ‘there’ in the moment, and become irrelevant almost instantaneously. Proof positive: go look at your phone for a moment, go back to pictures you took a couple of months ago and look at them. Be honest, is there any interest in most of those?
Most of those pictures never actually make it any further than your phone’s storage chip. When have you last copied pictures to another medium, let alone printed them or shown them to anyone but the people involved in your experience in the first place? You may have looked at them 5 minutes after having taken them, waiting for the train or standing in line to be let into a concert or bar, but after that? And whenever you try to show something that dates back more than a couple of days, you end up scrolling through endless series of pictures, not finding the one that you were looking for, and in the meantime not interacting with the person you wanted to show a particular picture to in the first place. We are obsessed with documenting what kind of fun we are having and how wonderful our lives are. So obsessed in fact that – in many cases – we fail to experience that fun in the first place!
How can you experience something fully if your mind is constantly drifting off into picture taking mode, how to make that picture look just right, and to take as many of them as possible just in case the others didn’t come out right?
It appears that we are less and less able to experience and cherish the current moment, and end up spoiling it by trying to hold on to it with all our might and technology, and therefore never fully experiencing it. We have to let go of the idea that things are only real and fully experienced when they are recorded by a phone because we have a perfectly good recording device built into our design: that’s what the memory circuits in our brain are for! There is no need to create artificial memories on electronic devices that we have to organise at great length. Our mind is good at doing this: whatever is important and has had an impact on us, has made us laugh or cry or angry, has made us think in unusual ways or sparked interest, thoughts or actions … these things will be remembered when it is their time to come back to life.
Those memories will be ours to share in a much more visceral and direct way than any picture will ever be. And they will be much more vivid because we had enough time to absorb them without any distraction from our obsessive picture taking behaviour. Sharing them will be a much more personal act than looking at your phone for five minutes to find that one picture – five minutes that you could have spent to describe that scene in much more detail than your picture will ever be able to tell.
Telling a story about an experience and adding your own personal colour to the telling is what being human being is all about: we are, after all, not solitary creatures but thrive in groups. And groups need cohesion that is created by more than tiny images on a phone screen. It needs a human touch.
So: why not get rid of the clutter pictures on your phone now? Keep the ones that you want to show to others, that actually add to your life experience, and get rid of the junk images you drag along with you.
Don’t record life as it passes you by, experience it!
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.