Instagram or it didn’t happen.

Instagram or it didn't happen

We’ve just come home from a quick, lovely weekend away.

Sparky and I are in the midst of a really busy period, the kids have just finished pre-school for the term, and life has been feeling very un-slow lately. Without sounding too much like the personification of a First World Problem, it was a break we were very grateful to have.

On Sunday morning we headed to the beach despite the fact that it was grey and cold and windy. Personally, I was keen to sit inside and drink coffee, but the kids have been itching to get their feet in the sand since winter began, so we walked down to the water anyway.

It was so beautiful. The ocean was all steel greys and navy blues, with crests of white and turquoise as the waves broke on the sandbars. The sky was gunmetal. The sand was a cold yellow. I sat up on the dunes and watched little flashes of red and pink as Sparky played with the kids on the waters edge. Yes, I’m waxing poetic, but damn it was gorgeous.

As I sat and watched them play and squeal and chase each other through the water, I was hit full-force by ALL THE EMOTIONS.

Love. Terror. Peace. Gratitude. Incompetence. Pride. Completion. Vulnerability. Sadness. Joy.

Bam! Right in the kisser.


Did I mention it was beautiful?

It was an unrelentingly photographable moment. A moment you want to wrap up and preserve and revisit on those days when there’s chalk ground in to the carpet and the kids have taken more than you have to give and there’s nothing in the fridge apart from leftover Chinese from last Friday. And it’s Thursday.

But I didn’t have a camera. And I didn’t have a phone.

I had my eyes. I had my heart. I had my brain.

So instead of worrying about the angle, or trying to get the best capture of the moment, I simply sat and watched my heart run around outside my body and I soaked the moment up and tucked it all away in my temporal cortex.

I didn’t Instagram it, yet it still happened.

I guess the question is, had I taken a photo of this moment, would it have made such an impact? Would I have felt it so deeply?

I don’t think I could have. I felt all the feelings because I was completely present.

A photo would have been gorgeous, I have no doubt. I might have had other emotions and recollections when I went back and looked at the camera roll, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

The irony of writing about this moment on my blog is not lost on me. But now I’m going to level with you.

I love Instagram and I’m quite fond of most social media. (Except FourSquare. It’s creepy.) I regularly capture snippets of my day-to-day life, things like kids, pets, gardens, sunsets and coffees. I love documenting sweet moments in my day, and sometimes I love sharing them with others.

But not always.

I believe some photos just need to be for you. No sharing. No likes. No comments. Just documenting a little moment and revisiting it on those days that seem like too much hard work.

And even more importantly, I believe some moments just need to be revelled in. No camera. No agenda. Just eyes and heart and brain.

Trying to capture the essence of these moments in a photograph does a disservice to the people we share them with, and it does a disservice to our memories.

So this week I’m challenging myself, and you if you’re up for it, to go and make memories. Real, skin and dirt and laughter memories. Don’t be afraid that you won’t remember those moments without a photo. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But in the doing, you will be living, not just observing.

For me, that’s real life. Right there.


(*And for anyone curious, the photo above was taken months ago. Same weather, different day.)


27 Responses to Instagram or it didn’t happen.

  1. Love this – I catch myself in similar moments sans phone and my first thought is ‘damn, wish I had my phone’ thinking of it as a perfect instagrammable moment. But then I relax into it and soak it up, revelling it as a moment of time that’s mine that I’ll carry with me always. I agree it’s nice to keep some things for ourselves, even though it’s so tempting to share. x

  2. During my bucket list trip to the Rose Bowl this year, I realized about halfway through the event, that I was busy trying to capture photos, versus watching the once in a lifetime event. Everyone around me was frantically trying to take pictures of the floats. It was an aahhaa moment for me. I no longer take so many photos, and preserve those i take in photo books that serve as presents for myself and my husband for our birthdays and Christmas. It’s a relief.

    • That’s such a beautifully, intentional way to approach things, Diane. Not only do you stop and enjoy the moment, but the moments you do capture for posterity are pulled together into a book where they will actually be appreciated, rather than just sitting on a hard drive in the office. xx

  3. AH, yep. Love this – I very often don’t photograph moments that would make amazing Instagram posts, and catch myself thinking ‘damn, should’ve taken pics of that..’. Funny how social media has changed my brain! Alot of my life remains private on purpose, and I like that, even though I have a blog and a social media presence – it reminds me that social media is only a tiny part of real life!

    • I love keeping things for just us too, Becs. I feel like the info we do choose to share publicly can then be shared for a reason and not lose its impact, you know? And it’s amazing how quickly our thought processes have adapted to think, “I need to IG this,” when you consider IG wasn’t even a thing 5 years ago. :)

  4. The older I get, the more private I’m becoming about my life. I love looking at pics on instagram too, but not everything should be shared. I wonder what this next generation of kids will feel when they are 20 and look back at their parents facebook & instagram accounts, and see so many of their life events were captured on social media. Will they be grateful or feel that we shared too much? it will be interesting to see how this generation reacts as they get older and have their own social media accounts. I’m kind of hoping things will circle around & people will not overshare as much in the future, though I know it’s up to each of us to power down our lap tops or leave our phones at home, or choose to live in the moment instead of posting it.

    • It’s definitely a question I see more and more people asking, Holly, myself included. Personally I gut check everything I share, and won’t put anything out there that I feel is crossing our particular line. But I agree, the next generation’s feelings on sharing and over-sharing are going to be really interesting.

  5. I’m a photographer. But I also greatly believe less is more. I’m taking less and sharing a lot less. Its one place I feel I can back off and live the moment. I really have totally disengaged from IG. Just one less thing to worry about.

    • Anónimo. Podías respetar un poquito, no? Insultar no me parece la manera mas acertada de contestar. Lo que no sabemos es si esta foto nos muestra la unica cerveza que tomaron o si por el contrario tomaron mas ese dÃÃ­³n: No tomar ninguna y despejar dudas.

  6. As a photographer, I can forget just about everything BUT my camera, but it does feel good to leave the darn thing in the bag and enjoy life first hand. Thank you for the reminder!

  7. Today, the normally angsty task of braiding my daughter’s hair was completely transformed into a gorgeous moment by going outside in the sunshine. We were in no hurry and we chatted as I plaited. There were no tugs, no screams and they were the prettiest braids I’ve ever done. I did take a photo however, but only to show her how they looked! No Instagram, just a lovely memory.

  8. I lived this same experience today, although I don’t do Instagram. I was at the beach with my 2.5yo whilst hubby and 5yo went for a bike ride. Initially I kept thinking about what beautiful photos I could be taking, then I thought about the rare moment of pure, natural joy I was experiencing with my littlest girl and was grateful I didn’t have my phone. Watching her throwing sand and shells into the bay and then dagging about with sandcastles etc was such a joy. I had the opportunity to contemplate the beautiful place we live in. Not just our town or our country, but this incredible planet. It was a simple, happy day and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to just stop and soak it in.

  9. Love this post. You hit the nail on the head. Has anyone else found that intentionally and deeply taking in one’s surroundings, as well as the emotions it creates (as Brooke did) makes a permanent memory? In regular life I am not so strong at remembering images and views, but if I hyperfocus, i.e. deliberately work on taking it in and remembering it, I do! And I think the emotions are key here, for me at least. I can still vividly recall the view from the Eiffel Tower on my first solo trip. The lights gradually coming on in each of the neighborhoods, the sunset reflecting off the Seine, and the butterflies in my stomach as I realized a life long dream. No photo would have done it justice, and the emotions actually come back when I recall it. Amazing! (Since then I have taken 3 solo trips, and am pleased to report that I have done this “memory capturing” several times since, always when a place or situation struck me emotionally.)

  10. I love this. The thought crosses my mind so much that if I’m wholly present in the moment, then I don’t even need to take a picture to remember it, let alone post it to hundreds of “followers”. Reminds me of a video I love, “Look Up”. Have you seen it?

  11. I don’t take tons of photos- and I very rarely post photos of my kids on-line.

    This summer, we were in Romania (my husband’s country)- we went to a very touristy spot, ‘Bran Castle’ (Dracula’s castle- but not really….long story). I had enough battery to take 3 photos of the site and the kids- and that is it. We enjoyed our time there- but it made me sad to see soooo many people (almost everyone) looking at the place through a big lends or their tablet-camera. They didn’t use their own eyes.

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  14. Love this post. We have also just been away, for 3 weeks over the Christmas holidays and I consciously left my phone at home (or somewhere not with me) a LOT. It was a bit sad sometimes as there were those moments I really wanted to capture (my 2nd son has just started walking) but it was also so great to have a break from the online world. I managed to get a few pics and actually that was enough. I shared those thoughts on my blog here
    I have discovered so many blogs that talk to minimalism and how to slow your life down and it resonates so massively with me. I just listened to your podcast on “Tilting” and really enjoyed it – I am going to keep that concept in mind on a daily basis – so much better than trying to achieve balance!
    Thank you..

  15. Thanks for this thought provoking post, I have been thinking quite a bit about these same things and how I want go be more present and maybe less connected and yet here I am posting on your blog as I browse Facebook. I feel like I communicate often but am not connected. I spent part of last week with my family at a cottage in the frozen winter climate of Montreal, Canada. I tried not to use any technology or social media that whole week and I struggled. I was standing in the middle of a beautiful small frozen lake, surrounded by snow dusted trees and mountains with my 16 year old son. We stood there in the sunshine feeling the warm sun on our cold faces listening to the peaceful silence that is the winter months. It was incredible, I felt incredible, at peace, calm, grateful to be with my son who I love, a wash of emotions and then it happened, the need to take a selfie and post. We snapped the shot, a tremendous picture, posted it and waited for the flury of likes from friends, family and complete strangers. I couldn’t help but think that I had sold out this precious moment with my son, one of those moments that you hope will flash back into your mind when it comes time to leave this world and the thought of it will bring you peace. I found your post inspiring and will try harder to live more in the moment, appreciate being present in that moment, unplug and try to live more peacefully…right after I post this to your blog!