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Why You Should Skip the Selfie During Your Next Museum Trip

Image source: Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The Color Factory, 29Rooms, Museum of Ice Cream. What do all three of these places have in common? Millennials love them. Pop-up museums are the newest Instagram-worthy trend targeting selfie-loving millennials. Who wouldn’t want to take a picture in a giant yellow ball pit or try sweet treats from famous ice cream shops around the U.S.?

These multi-sensory exhibits showcase a different side of art: accessibility. No longer do you have to take an Instagram photo from behind a velvet rope without the flash on. These pop-up museums actually encourage you to physically interact with exhibits and take photos. Drawing on walls with giant markers, playing in rooms with snow-like confetti sprinkling from the ceiling, and diving into a giant pool of sprinkles allows people to experience art in unique ways.

But if you’re hiding behind a small screen and taking photos or boomerangs, are you enjoying the full experience? Or a better question, will you remember the details of the delicious taste of the ice cream or the the colors of the flowers dangling from above? Unfortunately, probably not. Research shows that if you’re taking a picture, you’re focused on the act of taking a picture, not the action happening around it.

This “photo-taking impairment effect” was studied at an art museum. Students were broken into separate groups, one group taking photos of objects and the others just observing. Back in the lab, very few students who took photos could remember important details about the objects, compared to those who simply observed.

Why is this? The researcher believed that the students who used cameras were impaired, because they subconsciously counted on the camera to remember the nitty gritty details. The researcher also cautioned against thinking of photos as memories. Although the photo will remain the same, your will memories change over time. Thanks, brain!

Does this mean you should stop taking photos? Of course not. Just remember that it’s about more than getting the perfect photo for social. Maybe try putting down your phone or limiting yourself to a few photos per visit.