For a while I got far too spoiled (aka lazy) using visual communication. Easy for a lover of both the written form and photo and video mediums. When emoji, gifs, and photos say a thousand words, and the ease of sending them is 2-fold…your old friend the written word gets rusty.

It’s a lot like my cursive (or lack thereof) and actually, even my handwriting… The muscles in my hand don’t cooperate with the pen like they used to. I used to jot notes like a madwoman in class in a personal shorthand. Never missed a point, occasionally I nearly recorded a lecture verbatim.

Now, I write a letter in longhand and my hand is a cramped up mess…but let’s move on before we have to talk about what’s happened to my penmanship because it’s not pretty.

Somewhere between the emergence of emoji, text “reactions”, and a camera in every pocket my mind started to drift away from prioritizing the written word.

Earlier today while sitting and watching the cats explore their new yard, I realized I was actually watching them and that was all I was doing. Before you roll your eyes I know it’s not exactly groundbreaking realization, but I was stunned when I had the urge to film it all, caught myself and finally realized i was better off just enjoying it. It was so much sweeter.

Recording with photo or video is a compulsion I’ve developed over the years, part of a lifestyle that my gigs when I was a budding social media manager required.

Few moments went uncaptured. It got to be a tick, something cool was happening, ok hit record.

When i could get into that mental mode, get on that habit, my online presence was solid. Except…I could barely recall half of what happened except by photo.

Science has shown that when you do record a video of an event, it doesn’t use the same parts of the brain.

Basically, your doesn’t record memory in the same way when you whip out your phone or camera. This is why you get the vid, but often can’t recall the experience as clearly, if at all.

Your brain knew it could outsource that “memory” as you recorded it, so it did. Adios to your recall. It’s called cognitive offloading.

I’ve noticed I have a surreal lack of distinct, strong memories for a chunk of my early adulthood. It’s at the age where my memories are a bit hazy that suspiciously coincides with the same time I started toting a cell phone and/or digital camera around. Those devices became my outsourced mental hard-drive.

Show me a photo and it’s oh yea! how fun, I remember that. And I can likely fill in the rest of the photo’s story.

In lieu of that, it’s gone to me. This age was the time I was most diligent about documenting everything (and I’m sure I can also blame a typical early 20s exuberance for partying) yet it’s still a blurry haze when I think back to the time.

Skimming past what this says about youthful narcissism in my early 20s…now that I’ve broken computers, lost drives, wiped clouds, and other technological Armageddons…I’ve lost most of the photo evidence.

In turn, a lot of those memories are long lost, rusting in a mental filing cabinet with no dewey decimal record of them to be seen.

Every party, every brunch, every gathering. While I got it all on camera, I’m like the poster child of one of those sassy 50’s bday party gifts that says “CRS” on it…can’t remember shit.

Not having a smart phone (with those newfangled emoji) has made these changes more clear than I had previous clocked. I hadn’t noticed how visual my communication style was until I had to use my words again. And the irony of that as a writer. Woooh, it’s not lost on me.

And now, add to that not having a camera phone. I actually have to remember things now! It’s working too.

As a bonus the photos I actually do take are way better and more thought out since I use my proper dSLR digital camera. This means when something is really worth capturing, it’s still a snap. (ha!)

What a way to lean into immersing yourself in words (and reality).

If you’re a scroller or phone photo snapper you might be surprised how much more entwined with the written word you are when you spend more time really using it, and less time substituting your written communication with photo and video.

I might text like a T9er with the loss of my emojjis, but my thoughts are more clear. And they’re all just for you, no more copy pasting the same message to multiple people when I have a stroke of brilliance or update.

To that end…tell the story, don’t just pull out a phone to show what happened. For storytellers, this seems like a crucial skill to honing your stories and finding your words.

The more you use your words, the more you find the right ones when it’s time to tell a story you care about. That’s a win to me.


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