Friday, July 2, 2021

Why Your Photos Shouldn't Be on Your Phone

If you weren’t born before the internet (like me), you might be suspicious about the title of this post.  “What do you mean my pictures don’t belong on my phone?  That’s how I take pictures—of course they belong there!”  

The truth is that your phone is actually a fickle (and kinda scary) place for your pictures.  Phones are an increasingly amazing, convenient way to take photos, they just aren’t a great place to keep photos.  Here’s why.

1. Phones Are Awesome

In fact, phones are so awesome that 1 in 10 smartphone owners are victims of theft.  Unfortunately, thieves don’t care if photos of bringing your baby home from the hospital or photos of your last time with your grandma are on your phone.  

We'll talk more about this as we go, but phones are definitely a convenient and great place to access photos--in fact, I absolutely love this method of being able to access every photo I own using my phone, without taking up storage space--it's just dangerous to for a phone to be the only place you have a photo.

2. Phones Are Easy to Lose

Did you know that $30 billion worth of cell phones are lost in the United States every year?!  Sure, you might be able to be extra careful and not become part of that statistic, but it seems like something so easily and commonly lost wouldn’t be the best place to keep this:

3. Pictures Don’t Really Get Seen on Phones

It’s true.  Sure, you might hand your phone to a kiddo in a shopping cart who needs a distraction, but the accessibility kids have to their own life stories (as shown through pictures and memories) is limited when they are dependent on your phone.  And the fact is that we don’t just sit down at a family gathering and pass around the phone like we did with scrapbooks back in the day. 

photo credit: Denise Pehrson

Imagine that your wedding photos are only on your phone.  How will your grandkids look at them?  I know we tend to think we’re going to have digital photos forever that we can text to each other, but the truth is we just don’t know.  (Once upon a time there was a floppy disk…  If your pictures were all on a floppy disk, you’d have to just throw it away in 2021--unless you send it here for digitizing.)

If you have family members who live far away, consider how those pictures on your phone right now might help create connections if they weren’t just on your phone.  In fact, because little ones are still developing the brain capacity to store long-term memories, photos shared in tactile (hand-held) ways can make a difference in helping them develop their memories and recognition of family faces.   You’ll enjoy the sweet, gorgeous, meaningful ideas here:  Helping Toddlers Connect with Family Across the Miles.

4. Pictures on Phones Don’t Have Stories

You’ve probably taken a picture during an amazing trip or a special occasion.  If you were to show the picture to your best friend the next day, you would probably have a lot to say about the picture and the event.  Here’s what we did, here’s the best part, here’s who was there, here’s how I felt, here’s what I loved the most, here’s a funny thing someone said.

The picture itself is really just a representation of the actual event—a literal snapshot of the event as a whole.  And so, the picture by itself doesn’t actually tell the whole story, old adages about thousand word-worth notwithstanding.  In order to really remember, to really capture the moments you enjoyed during the event, and be able to really remember them later, your photos need their stories.

Because our memories fade.  Faster than we want them to.  If you wait three months to tell your best friend about the event, you’ve already forgotten a lot of the details.

What’s more, when you tell the stories of your photos, you’re telling the story of your life.  Research has shown that writing your story fosters a stronger sense of self, increases gratitude and a sense of purpose, helps you makes sense of your thoughts and experiences, and can even make you happier!  (I personally love the research on that!)

5. Pictures and Stories in Kids’ Hands Changes Everything

Believe me, I spent lots of time when my kids were little worrying about if they were getting enough vegetables and listening to classical music every day and learning social skills at play group.  

As I’ve spent so much time the last two decades preserving their photos and experiences and stories in digital scrapbook pages and digital photo-storybooks, I have also done a lot of research for blogging that has taught me something both fascinating and hopeful:  The best thing I can do for my kids is give them their own stories.  

Family stories, personal stories, ancestor stories—they all (have been shown in studies!) to build self-esteem, a sense of connection, and even foster resilience!  

These days we take lots of photos, so most stories and memories already have a photo to go with them. The idea of combining the two is pretty straightforward:  publish or print the photo and write the memories that go with it. 

That’s a child’s story, a family story, and your own story.  Stories and photos are what connect us, but photos on phones and stories floating around in our heads aren’t enough.  We need to see them, touch them, hold them, and pass them on.  

We need to use them--as bedtime stories and gifts for grandparents and something to sit with on our bed and open up when the day gets really hard.

That’s what they’re for.

Create yours here.
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