By Serena Mao
We have an interesting tendency to take pictures of everything that catches our interest. A birthday party? Click. Eating salad for dinner? Click. Got a dog? Of course, click. It’s become a habit. When anything different from the norm arises, we find an odd urge to preserve it forever in the virtual memory of some electronic machine.
As it has become routine, we think less and less about our motivations behind doing so. Let’s take the examples of events such as birthday parties, weddings, or that new dog. Why did we take those pictures? What do we do with them? An obvious use for these images is social media. These are one time events, and they are important to us. We want to share them with the world, and the way we do that is through messages or media platforms like Instagram or Facebook. It seems that so far, our motivations are often just to show others the developments in our own lives, a rather self-centered ideal.
What’s more interesting is our desire to take pictures of famous items or scenery: Yosemite Falls, the world’s widest tree, the Empire State Building. These pictures are widely available on the internet, and often from better angles and with better quality. So why do we want to take these ourselves? Okay, so again, we want to share it on social media. If we share some internet picture, others find it hard to believe that we went. But we don’t want to share absolutely everything on the internet. It’s not like we’re going to be sharing every single picture on Facebook or WeChat. In those cases, why do we still click that shutter?
It ultimately boils down to memories. We want to look back on those pictures and think; wow, I went there last year. Or dang, that happened and we looked like this. A simple internet picture doesn’t feel genuine or trigger nostalgia. Merely trying to stretch our memory to think back to that time doesn’t do it for us. We want a solid, indisputable piece of evidence that we did that, then. When we look through those photos, we remember what happened, and we feel good (or even bad) about it. But most importantly, we can relive it.
Our habit of snapping images tells a lot about our motivations and even about human nature. We are social creatures, and want validation or admiration from others. Pictures help us achieve that. But more importantly, we like to relive our past. It’s fun to wrap ourselves in our memories, to feel those same feelings as we did so long ago. Those pictures we snapped help us do that. We love the feeling of accomplishment, or the passing of milestones. It seems logical that we should always look ahead, plan ahead, think ahead, because nothing in the past can change, we can only change things that have not yet happened. But that’s simply not how we’re born as. Once in a while, we like to look back and remember.