publisher's note

Living life through a screen


My husband and I enjoy hiking and Pine Grove Furnace State Park is one of our favorites. If you’ve never visited, it’s one of Pennsylvania’s must-see state parks. A real gem within an hour’s drive of Harrisburg.

We’ve hiked many of the park’s trails, and on a clear day last October we chose the more challenging Pole Steeple Trail because it led to a dramatic granite overlook where the entire park could be viewed.

It was the weekend, so the relatively short rock scramble to the summit was busy with seasoned hikers, young couples and families with kids and dogs.

When we reached the outcropping, not surprisingly, we weren’t alone. Hikers were clumped into a sort of ad-hoc waiting line at the base of the outcropping, which was fine by me. I’m not ashamed to say I needed some time to catch my breath before venturing out onto the overlook. Besides, I'm an avid people-watcher and there was sure to be plenty to see.

What I witnessed was so absurd, it's hard to put into words.  A ditzy young thing was striking yoga poses at the very edge of a ragged outcropping while family members enthusiastically captured the moment on their smartphones. Thoroughly unconcerned about striking a dicey one-legged pose balanced on the jagged rock ledge above a 535’ drop and coolly indifferent to the crowd patiently waiting for their turn at the summit, she wasn’t to be hurried in her pursuit to memorialize her perfect Instagrammable moment.

What is this obsession of capturing each moment of our lives to share on social media? Throughout the years I’ve witnessed how public spaces are being overtaken by Instagram selfie-seekers. It seems no happy moment is complete without getting validation from the outside world.

Once upon a time, life experiences - both large and small - assimilated into our collective memory and defined us. Today, experiences are chosen for their photo-worthiness.

Have we forgotten how to live in the moment?

In a Fairfield University study led by Cognitive Psychologist Linda Henkel, students were led on a guided tour of an art museum and asked to observe some objects and photograph others. The following day, a memory test was given and guess what? The ones who observed without taking pictures didn’t miss out on all the small details – and the details stayed longer in their memories.

Do perfect "grammable" moments really make for a fulfilling life and lasting memories? Evidence suggests otherwise.

So, wherever you are, commit to being there, completely. You owe it to yourself to make every moment count.