What doing things “for the ‘gram” and poor study habits have in common

Here’s a thing I noticed: Using your phone camera to document the things in your life is a lot like using a highlighter when studying.

I think of going through life and going through papers as similar processes: in both cases, you’re faced with the formidable goal of relishing and remembering the content you come across as fully as possible. People use a lot of techniques to absorb the content that they are studying. Some people swear by using highlighters: they help make key points stand out and help the reader commit these better to memory. By analogy, lots of people pull out their cameras to commemorate life’s milestones: from graduations to family reunions. These photos often get tucked into photo albums or digital archives, where the owners could go back and transport themselves back in time to those precious moments years afterward.

But as many students learn the hard way, highlighting can be overdone. If you dive head first into a textbook passage using the highlighter basically as a yellow flashlight for your eyes as they travel across the page, turning reading into a continual process of what-should-I-highlight-next, you won’t study as well. Being too generous with highlighting distracts you from the work of synthesizing the meat of what you read, and turns a study session into a meaningless coloring session. By the same token, I think it’s too easy to overdo picture-taking/video-taking. If you are experiencing most of your life through your camera lens, are you really enhancing your life? Does anyone even go back into his or her Camera Roll to reminisce at the picture of the ice cream cone eaten two months ago? Being overzealous about recording stuff on my phone feels like massively over-highlighting a book — they both make me feel falsely productive and drown out the impact of the stuff that really matters.

Let’s try to be more deliberate about what we pause to snap for, and to appreciate the rest wholeheartedly in the present. Because we all deserve to eat delicious food that hasn’t yet gone cold at the table, and to enjoy glorious concerts with our views unobscured by the field of fat periscope-arms in front of us.

Writer, Cog-Neuro Research Assistant @ Yale. Presenting my thoughts about self-development and life as a former college student || gloriawfeng.com

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