Monthly Archives: October 2013

Why do people prefer to archive their life instead of living it?

When young-ish people do activities nowadays, like going to a party, to a concert or whatever, you’ll see many of them perceiving most of the event through the display of their phones, busy taking videos and pictures. It seems like it is more important to many folks to document what they’re doing than actually doing it.

Why do people rather record videos and photos of their activities than just enjoying the moment? If you ask them, most will pretend that they want to be able to remember what happened years later, and archiving it digitally is the best way to not loose track of what was going on. While that is true, undeniably, I suspect that most people will never look at most of their old photos and videos ever again. The predominant behaviour on the other hand is to immediately post and share the videos and photos, most likely in order to improve the digital depiction of one self. In other words it might be more important to people to improve on the way others perceive them digitally than really living what they’re pretending to be doing.

What is even more surprising than archiving real life instead of living it is that many people rather talk (writing messages) to other people on their phone than to the people they’re socialising with. Sure, whenever I get an email or a text, I feel slightly pressured too, to answer as quickly as possible. But only very few of my incoming messages actually have to be answered within one hour or so. And that won’t be much different for other people, so that can’t be the only reason.

Is it that we usually meet up with people that are less important than other folks we’re texting with? I don’t think that’s the reason either. So what is then? I think part of the answer might be the decreasing attention span of people. It might just be too hard for people to devote their attention for an extended period to the folks hanging out with them. The other reason might be social efficiency. Since we are already spending time with the people we’re hanging out with (even if we’re texting instead), we can socialise with other people on our phone at the same time. We can, in other words, satisfy the socialising needs of more people at the same time, even if we’re sacrificing the direct interaction with the people next to us. But since most of them are doing the same thing, it can’t be that harmful, right?

Do I do it? Well, certainly not the life-archiving part, but that’s mostly because I don’t really enjoy taking photos too much. How about communicating with other people on the phone while socialising in real life? I try not to. Call me old school, but I still find it a little insulting. However, I sometimes do it if I really feel that I have to answer certain texts in a timely manner. I also start doing it when the people I’m socialising with are doing it, basically to hold a mirror up to them; needless to say that no one ever gets my subtle behavioural critique though.