The Documentarian Generation: Trading Living for Likes

Do you remember the last time you heard one of your grandparents tell a story? If you do, you’ll likely remember their story as if it was a memory of your own. Why is this? It seems that past generations have an uncanny long-term memory, even when their day-to-day memory fails them.


Last week I asked my grandmother to tell me the story about how she met my grandfather and her face lit up as she told me every detail of their first encounter. It’s truly magical to see. Yet, if you asked me about the Justin Bieber concert I went to last month, I would struggle to come up with the details.


The reason for this isn’t because my grandmother’s memory is better than mine, but simply because she lives life different than me. She grew up in a time where cameras were scarce and smartphones and social media didn’t exist. So, rather than pulling out her phone to snap a selfie with my grandfather the first night they might, she committed each detail to her memory.


There are time when I envy her – because I am a part of the documentarian generation. A generation that feels compelled to document every major (and minor) detail of our lives for the world to see.


What began with Facebook has now spread to include Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. If you went to a concert but didn’t document it on some form of social media, did you really even go? The digital world that we live in almost requires that moments like this are captured on camera, so we videotape mindlessly before realizing that we haven’t really enjoyed the moment ourselves. It’s instinctual at this point to document things; proposals, weddings, practical jokes, meals, our faces – we want to share everything.


The problem with mass documentation of our lives is not only that we miss out on truly experiencing the moment as it happens, but it also limits what we have to talk about with our peers. No longer can you meet your friends for lunch and excitedly tell them about the hilarious thing your toddler did last night because they’ve already seen it on your Snapchat. The simple phrase “I know, I saw your story” has become a conversation terminator, which only further prompts us to scroll through social media, or take a snapshot of our food, to fill the conversational void. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be interrupted with deliberate intention.


The truth is that the human memory can hold much more than even the largest hard drive filled with photographs and videos. Although you can look at a photograph and remember that you were there, the photograph itself is a fixed moment in time, not a memory.


Imagine for a moment, your favourite photograph of you and a loved one. Chances are pretty good that you’re imagining one where the two of you are smiling and having a good time. Of course you remember the photograph, but do you remember the details of that night? Do you remember that right after the photograph was taken, you spilled your glass of wine and ruined your blouse? Do you remember that the very next day your child took their first step?


Living life behind a lens blurs these moments in our memory since they aren’t lived presently in the moment. Rather, they are lived in hopes of getting the most “likes” on Facebook or Instagram.


Cherishing sweet memories rather than photographs can begin with a simple choice. The next time you have a special event or funny moment instead of reaching for your phone, simply live in the moment. After all, life is for living, not for “likes.”


Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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