An Emma Chamberlain sound bite that succinctly explains our inclination to document memories is going viral on TikTok.
On a December 2022 episode entitled “post it or it didn’t happen?” of her Spotify exclusive podcast anything goes, Chamberlain recalls her experience at a Harry Styles concert, during which she noticed a ton of fans whip out their phones and ceaselessly film him. She explores why we are “so obsessed with taking photos of everything” and considers what the benefit of stopping could be.
Now, nearly five months later, a 30-second sound bite from Chamberlain’s podcast episode is making its rounds on TikTok. As the audio, as well as Bon Iver’s “Flume,” plays in the background, content creators share a reel of memories they’ve captured, consisting of photos and videos. These snippets of their lives, it appears, aren’t always the most exciting either, which suggests that even a seemingly minute, intimate activity can be beautiful and worth capturing.
“Why do we feel the need to take photos of everything? Here’s what I think,” Chamberlain says. “I think part of it has something to do with this fear of losing a memory. We’re afraid of a magical moment in our lives happening and us not having a permanent version of it in the form of a photo.”
Chamberlain continues, “Out of this, sort of uncomfortable fear, that if we don’t get it in photo version, video version, that it’ll be gone forever.”
Southern California native Ellie Ramos (@ellieeramos_) was one of the first creators to use the audio in a TikTok video.
“I have this fear. I realised how many forgotten memories I have. So now I have a memory book and I write down just shortly things I want to remember,” @carligreeff said.
“i need to have a video and photo of everything to reminisce,” @dragonfruitdaze replied.
“live in the memory but also take a little reminder to help you along the way,” @tikkth0t.com wrote.
“To refer back to when you are depressed lol cause you know there were happier times so hold on a little longer,” @arshiyaspam commented.
Creators, including Marrissa Jade (@marissajade), Muskan (@mussymus) and Rachel Pu (@rachpu1), have also hopped on the viral trend.
An ideal version of ourselves
As the podcast episode continues, Chamberlain delves deeper into what she believes is the reason behind the general public’s persistent, almost compulsive, need to snap a photo or record a video of seemingly everything. Chamberlain argues that this compulsion is driven less by our fear that memories will fade but more about the “specific version of ourselves online” that is curated through what we post.
“I think the reason why we’re so obsessed with taking photos and videos of everything, and posting those things on social media is because I think that subconsciously we all know that our identity online is not inconsequential. It’s not like it doesn’t matter,” Chamberlain says. “And it’s not like nobody is judging us based on it. The truth is, is that the online version of ourselves are perceived the same amount, if not even more than, our physical being.”
A 2021 study by Squarespace found that Zoomers believe their online persona to be of more importance than who they are in real life.
“The majority of Gen Z believe that how you present yourself online is more important than how you present yourself in person — and while 92% of Gen Z are typically multitasking with other activities while browsing the web, they’re also more likely to remember the color of a website than someone’s eye color,” said Kinjil Mathur, chief marketing officer at Squarespace via PR Newswire. “Americans browse over 3,000 websites a year, and our research shows that the things we see online can make a more lasting impression than things we see in person. This is why it’s so important to create a well-designed presence across all the things you do on the web.”
“The obsession of getting photos and videos of everything really doesn’t allow you to just enjoy a moment. And I know that that’s a cliché and it’s something that everybody says, but it’s very true. And I know that because I’ve compared moments in my life when I’ve just kept my phone down,” Chamberlain continues.
Ironically, it seems that this TikTok trend is proving Chamberlain’s point — that is, we, as a generation, are driven, at least in part, to capture memories because of how we think they’ll benefit our online presence. That’s not to say that these moments we document aren’t of personal value to us — they are; they just also serve another, arguably less sentimental purpose.
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