The fear of forgetting.


An adjective meaning truthful and straightforward, or frank. When referring to people, it usually is referring to a photo taken without that person’s knowledge, in the moment, not posed, and unplanned. Whether it’s a phone being held at arm’s length with the camera turned to face the photographer, or a photo that appears traditionally snapped, everybody poses. Everybody knows their best angle; everybody knows just how their eyebrows should be held; their hands by their side or on their waist; their smile crooked and closed, or wide showing every white tooth; red lips and done-up eyes, or au naturel.

Despite all of the posing that we know is going on, everybody seems to be fighting for this candid quality to their photos. They do everything to make it look like the photo was taken in-the-moment, without being planned. Yet I have seen girls walking down the mall at the university, camera held aloft, suddenly smiling huge smiles with their eyebrows raised, and stopping every three steps to take and retake their “candid” photo. As soon as the camera goes away, so do the smiles, and the bouncy walk, and the flipping hair. They’re just walking and talking again, as if nothing happened, while both of them stare at their phones, glancing at each other and giving a small wave before saying goodbye, while trying to choose the perfect filter combination.

There’s something about my generation’s picture-taking and status posting habits. The world of social media has given us a space where we can create whoever we wish to be, hide ourselves behind a screen, and then be that person to everybody watching from behind their own screens. We can select which parts of our lives, even which parts of our faces or bodies, we wish to show.

That’s not honest, not straightforward, and most of it is not “in the moment.”

And isn’t that the exact opposite of candid?

Social media, while claiming to connect people, actually puts wedges between them much of the time. When you use Instagram to filter your life so that your friends and family only see small parts of it, that’s not building relationships. Life is all about the relationships you build, and if you can’t be honest with a single person who’s in it, then you’re not being candid in the real world. Forget your profile pictures. However, there’s a pattern to most of these photos. Not only do we seem to be seeking candidness, we also seem to be seeking life-making moments. And I’ve noticed one other thing too: we want candid, exciting, life-making moments all the time. And we never want to forget them.

Because of this filtering ability that we’ve been given by social media, unrealistic expectations are set for what an ordinary life looks like. When you see somebody who’s every post is a photo of friends on a kayak, and then climbing a mountain, and then going to a club, and then suddenly they’re in Europe hitting up historic pubs, and then they’re in the middle of nowhere camping with their best friend and parents, you start to desire that too. You want to show everybody all of the cool things you’re doing.

And that desire comes with a fear: it’s the fear that you aren’t doing enough, aren’t living enough, that clearly your life is dull and boring and lacks everything that makes a life worthwhile. And then you start to think that maybe your life has lots of those moments, but you’re missing them. You can’t miss any of it, and neither can anybody else. And worse, what if you forget it?

And so we post photo after photo after photo, and status after status after status, hoping to forever enshrine these moments in our memories, and to prove that we are doing something meaningful and memorable and exciting with our lives. We want to prove that we have deep friendships, that our children are having a great time at the beach, that our family is the coolest, that our vacation is the best. And that we will, in fact, remember it forever, because it was just that great.

We are deathly afraid of forgetting anything that happens to us.

But is it worth remembering the moment if we were so absorbed in posting the picture with the perfect hashtag and just the right filter, that we forgot to be present in that moment to begin with?

I see far too many parents stopping their kids from running on the beach in order to take yet another photo of the three of them together. I see far too many friends taking selfies together in the coffee shop and then spending more time posting the photo to all six of their social media accounts than they spend actually speaking to one another. I see far too many students so convinced that they’re bored that they spend their entire class with their hand under their desk, scrolling through Facebook, because they don’t have the patience to sit through a lecture, and because they’re so convinced that boredom is next to death for anyone under the age of sixty-two.

And the reason that I write this is not to condemn my generation, but to implore them to just think about it; and first and foremost, because I find myself living inside of that 4-inch tall screen far too often. I find myself viewing the beauty of the world right in front of me through that screen too much. And as much as I love taking pictures of the sunset, of my family, of my husband and I, of my home, a screen just never quite captures what my eyes do. It can never fully encapsulate the amazing world that I’m living in right now.

And I would rather live every moment of my life to its fullest and forget all of them, than to never be present for any of them at all. Because that’s not living.