We’ve all been there…

…Snapchatting, Instagramming, Facebook Live-ing or photographing our experiences in an attempt to memorialise them.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, I encourage others to document their lives, especially when our memory is only getting worse.

The question is how much are we truly experiencing when we’re busy documenting said experience? How much documenting is enough?

The reality

Instagram and Snapchat Social Media Statistics

With over 600 photos uploaded per second on Instagram and 2.5 billion Snaps uploaded daily, it’s evident that we have a slight problem. Not only are we obsessed with documenting our experiences but we’re also obsessed with social media.

Why do we do what we do?

There are many reasons why we’re constantly documenting. First and foremost, we have an inherent desire to memorialise special moments and even the more mundane day-to-days. Essentially, we like to look back and see what we’ve done and show others places we’ve been to and things we’ve seen.

Yet it’s evident that this documentation may also be fuelled by a deeper psychological desire to belong or be perceived in a particular way by our peers. In a society of millennials obsessed with personal image and plagued with FOMO (fear of missing out), it’s easy to document selective moments to carve out a different persona for ourselves to bolster our egos and find acceptance amongst our peers.

The third reason is another ingrained in us by society. It may simply be because our attention spans are too short to focus on an experience for a prolonged period of time. In fact, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds (shorter than that of a goldfish)! Soon enough, we’ll be itching for our phones to document whatever’s happening and it’s probably because our friends and family around us are conditioned to do the same.


Disclaimer: Dory’s not a goldfish but hopefully this highlights my above point of fish having short attention spans and bad memory…

So how much is enough?

Documenting vs Experiencing

Historically, there’s always a give or take when it comes to documenting vs experiencing. This means the more you document, the less you experience and vice versa.

So, to answer the question of “how much is enough?”, you would have to dig deep into your own motivation and question why you document. Is it truly because you’re a hoarder of memories or is there a deeper motivation that you’ve never noticed?

If it’s for reason one, go ahead and document all you want. You’re documenting for yourself and making a conscious choice between documenting and experiencing. In fact, you may even regret it if you don’t document (like I have in the past!). The only thing to be mindful of is the effect your documenting has on others: are you taking away from their experience? For example, you wouldn’t document an entire concert or you would be obscuring the view of someone behind you. Instead, you can try taking a few select photos or videos and be done with it.

However, if you’re documenting for reason two, I urge you to document less and live more in the moment. While it’s only natural to crave acceptance, documenting for the purpose of others will only form an unhealthy habit in the long run. Not only will it weigh on your mind but it’ll also eat at you when your photos and videos aren’t met with great reception from your peers. A digital or social media detox could help and you might even find it liberating over time.

Similarly, if you’re documenting for reason three, you may be feeling the urge to multi-task or conform to the group rather than to document for yourself. You could try switching off your phone during a certain event or asking others for photos and videos afterwards. Just because others are busy documenting, it doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.

All in all…

I wanted to point out that documenting is not something to be ashamed of like so many articles have made it out to be. I’ve been guilty of documenting for all three reasons outlined above and I recognise that sometimes the motivation behind documenting can definitely take away from the experience and become unhealthy. Now I consciously try to document only for myself and I urge you to do the same.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more of my travel thoughts by following me on Facebook or Instagram. Happy documenting and experiencing!

What are your thoughts on Documenting vs Experiencing? Please let me know in the comments below.

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