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Should we live in the moment or should we stop and take a picture? - Is it worth losing part of an experience in order to remember it?

Joshua Foer says, "Our lives are the sum of our memories". But remembering takes effort, and in trying to do so, we become distracted and we lose part of the experience we are having. For example, we can enjoy the sight of a beautiful mountain and be caught up awe in the moment, or we can enjoy a beautiful mountain and wonder how we are going to take a picture and show it to our friends. Is it worth losing part of the experience in order to better remember it in the days or years to come? Is it worth losing parts of future experiences by trying to remember those of the past?

(As a much broader question - and to use Daniel Kahneman's terms - what is more important: the experiencing self or the remembering self?)

One answer I've contemplated: What is important is not the memories we have but rather the quality of our experiences. Instead of focusing on the memory of an experience (by taking photos, making mental structures, writing things down, etc), we should strive to achieve a state of flow - a state in which we fully immerse ourselves in the present moment, undistracted by thoughts of the past or the future. By doing so, I believe we will find satisfaction in each experience in the present, rather than always looking to the satisfaction to be had in the future through our memories of the past.

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    May 11 2012: Very few of us will be able to sustain mindfulness and to consciously live in the present moment for our whole lives. Our economic model, culture, and indoctrination make this peace shorter-lived and less likely. Almost all of us WILL get pulled away from living in the moment. Diapers, mortgages, adolescence, etc.

    So, for me, the question is: how good is my memory? Will I remember the moving experiences when only that present time was real? Will I remember what my senses were telling me, what I was thinking and feeling?

    Live in the moment as long as you can. Cultivate and practice mindfulness as long as you can. As long as you are able to maintain that higher state, you have no need of a snapshot. Stopping to snap a pic seems vulgar, doesn't it?

    But do accept that, one day, you may be too tired, too rushed, and too harassed to constantly maintain the inner self you want to keep. You might lose touch with your true self for years! Some people never get back to their peaceful self. But if looking at that silly pic helps me to recall the moving experiences - when only that present time was real - and what my senses were telling me, what I was thinking and feeling, then maybe that silly pic will get me back to my peaceful self that much sooner!

    - Try to remember that you have a lousy memory for subtleties of emotion and sensory input.
    - Get a cheap camera that you're not worried about losing.
    - Learn how to use it masterfully so that you minimize your pic-taking time.
    - Take pics of precious moments, then hide the pics and the camera until your kids are off to college and you can move
    into a nice little condo! The pics are for you, not your pals or your kids.
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    May 11 2012: Memories are personal. you can share your experiences through people, but the memories will always be kept in our heart. both of them are important. experience will help you in developing skills and memory is kinda the fuel inside.
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    May 11 2012: both are important memories and even experiences!!
    Memories make you happy and even make you sad!!(memories are the mixtures of emotions) and i think it do play a role when you are alone and suddenly u get nostalgic!!
    Experience does teach you at every stage of life and it may even acts as a solution to the problem that you have already encountered in the past!!!
    so i think both do play a specific role in everyones life!!
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    May 11 2012: In my opinion, it's much more important the experiening self. I think it may be nice to remember, but we`re not always ready to remember. But it always be useful, nice and peaceful to keep the experience inside us.
  • May 11 2012: Maybethis depends on the person. while I've taken photos at time - I am a memory sortg of guy. Of course,
    there are some unique things in our lives. Other than that why take a photo?
  • May 10 2012: I see the effort to "document the moment" as a particular problem around social media. The more immersed you become in your efforts to share experiences with followers, the less you are able to actually HAVE the experience in the first place.
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      May 11 2012: I agree, but not about seeing the fact of 'documenting the moment' only as a particular problem around social media but also for remembering. Anyway, I fully agree with you about the more immerses you in your efforts to share experiences with others, the less you'll have the experience in the first place. ok!
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    May 10 2012: Let me just state beforehand that I'm an amateur photographer, and I've frequently thought about these issues.

    "Should we live in the moment or should we stop and take a picture? - Is it worth losing part of an experience in order to remember it?"

    "Is it worth losing part of the experience in order to better remember it in the days or years to come?"

    Well, I think one should do both. It's not impossible. Just take the darned pic, and then revel in the beauty of the scenery. One doesn't necessarily "lose the experience" when snapping photos. It's only when they get carried away and go snap-crazy without remembering to really soak in the moment that it's lost. And no one can judge that, except for themselves. I have to admit, though, that with dynamic environments (Sunsets, for example), looking at the sun through the LED screen or viewfinder while it sets feels somewhat different than actually looking at the real thing without pieces of glass in between. But hey, the experience is not actually lost. It's just a different experience, a different feeling. One might argue that it's inferior, but that's subjective. Personally, I do think it's a wee bit inferior (Just a bit), but it's worth it for the photo(s), which won't fade, unlike most people's memories.

    "Is it worth losing parts of future experiences by trying to remember those of the past?"

    I don't get this one =/ What parts of future experiences are lost?

    "...what is more important: the experiencing self or the remembering self?"

    Again, I'll say both are equally important. To immerse one's self in the moment, to remember one's feelings of amazement/wonder/etc., and to record it on camera. One can end up forgetting all one's experiences with time and age, but photos will endure (And help one remember!).

    Stuart: Just for the record, I love looking at other people's holiday photos =) The beautiful/unique ones, anyway.
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      May 10 2012: I agree with you. I would also wish to add that photography, i.e. the kind of seeing involved in making pictures with a unique or personal point of view is a very engaged form of observation.
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    May 10 2012: My strategy is to take the experience in myself and let the shutterbugs take the photos. In some cases, buying a postcard also works.
    There are exceptions. Some experiences are not fleeting and so there is time to enjoy them as well as to take a photo. An example might be my bulldog sleeping and snoring in the sunshine. A photo takes less than a minute. The bulldog will probably hold that position for an hour.
    There is purpose to be served in retaining artifacts of our experiences. We will not remember forever everything which is worth remembering, and an artifact, note, or photo may prod memory.
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    May 10 2012: Hi Charlie,
    I feel very strongly that we should NEVER stop and take a photograph to attempt to capture an experience. I think our memories are most precious and although I know some people enjoy re-living holidays via their photographs for me, if it's worth remembering we don't need a reminder. There is an enigmatic quality to what we recall and what we don't in our lives.Being immersed in a moment is a real luxury in today's world and should be embraced as often as is possible. All too often I see people in amazing places across the world seeing it through a tiny lens and missing the experience I think the age of the photo album coming out when guests visit is a thing of the past. The age of digital photography has changed the way we take, display and show our memories too. Few things match the boredom of:
    a) other people's holiday photos
    b) other people's dreams

    Am I being too harsh?.... I do confess that in my youth I thought both a) and b) were uniquely fascinating to others! Now I'm less sure.