Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Carter: Life through a smartphone lens

Last week was a big one for my two daughters. Last weekend was their first dance recital after their first year of dance class. And on Wednesday, my youngest “graduated” from her preschool class with a luau-themed ceremony.

And while I attended both in person, I’d guess that I viewed approximately 80 to 90 percent of both events on the screen of my iPhone.


For many reasons, our smartphones are both a blessing and a curse. Who would’ve thought just 10 years ago that a majority of the population would be carrying around a high-definition camera and video recorder in their pocket or purse, ready to capture life’s events at a moment’s notice? It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

In that 10 to 20 percent of the time I looked away from my screen, I couldn’t help but notice I wasn’t alone. At least one, if not two members of every group who had come to watch their children or grandchildren perform or celebrated the completion of pre-kindergarten was doing the exact same thing I was.


With all the high school graduations in Carroll County this week, I suspect many parents found themselves doing something similar.

I’ve been struggling with whether this is a good or bad thing.

For example, during the dance recital, my focus — no pun intended — was trying to get a nice, clear photo or video of my daughters flitting and pirouetting about. When, at one point, I looked away from the screen, while I had assumed all of the 6- and 7-year-olds were synchronized in their moves, I realized I was missing the full performance and how their dances were complementing each other.

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On the other hand, because we take our phones everywhere we go, there are very few milestones or other candid moments of my kids that I don’t have stored in my pocket.

As I sat on Wednesday waiting for the graduation ceremony to begin, I started flipping through my camera roll to free up memory by deleting a few extraneous photos (mostly screenshots, downloaded memes, a bunch of dining room sets from when my wife and I were browsing for those a few years back, and a few pictures of things the kids wanted to Christmas that Santa Claus didn’t bring — which turned out to be a useful reminder with their birthdays coming up). In doing so, I found myself stopping several times to take a closer look at some of the photos, with happy memories rushing back of time spent with family and friends over the last several years.

If not for those pesky smartphones and their cameras, what are the chances I’d be able to rekindle all those memories? Let’s be honest, before the camera phone, how often did people mutter “boy, I wish I had a camera right now,” at a family get-together or when their children spontaneously started doing something adorable?

Of course, perhaps if we weren’t viewing life through the lens and screen of a smartphone, it would be easier to recall such events.

Research indicates that while photos can obviously help us with memory recall, constant photo-taking may actually diminish our memories because it diverts our attention.


Brian Resnick, recently wrote on the topic for, “The first step to forming a lasting memory is to pay attention. Without attention, our brains won’t store the sensations we experience in the world around us. … But if we’re not paying attention — if we’re not even getting information into our short-term memories — nothing will be stored long term in our brains.”

The lesson here, I think anyway, is that while it’s great to have a couple pieces of photographic or video evidence of both milestones and candid moments in our lives and those of our loved ones, and capturing those memories have never been more convenient, sometimes it’s better to keep the smartphone in your pocket — or at least put it back there for a few minutes — and just take it all in.