We all want to remember our family’s happenings. Whether it’s writing in a journal or baby book, making video compilations, or using an Excel spreadsheet, we’re all trying to preserve memories in one form or another.
The method that works best for me? Instagram. This surprises some people and concerns others: What about privacy concerns? Why not simply save your photographs on your phone instead of posting them to Instagram? Why not live in the moment instead of trying to capture it by taking pictures? Concerns like these are valid, but miss the advantages of preserving memories this way.
The comments from grandma, siblings, and close friends are all fun to read, but the main reason for using Instagram to record good times is that it’s easy. As a small-business owner with (too) many personal obligations and commitments, I don’t have the time to write daily journal entries or compile end-of-year scrapbooks or videos. Posting to Instagram is convenient and fits seamlessly into my days.
The best part is that each image I post is automatically uploaded to an online photobooks service, which compiles all of my photos and captions in chronological order and mails a new volume to me every month or so. These photobooks are one of my most treasured possessions, and my wife and four young children look through them constantly.
In addition to being something we can hold in our hands and look at together, Instagram photobooks are also better than looking at pictures on the phone because they have captions, which are often vital to understanding why a picture was taken in the first place. Captions are the only way to say when and where and why something happened, and to know who said and did what during the captured moment. They turn pictures into stories the same way the words of a children’s book are necessary companions to the illustrations. It’s hard to imagine one without the other.
When it comes to privacy concerns, I do my best to protect our privacy — I don’t believe in putting images of my young children online for just anyone to see. I keep my Instagram profile set to private and strictly limit my followers to family and close friends. Beyond these steps, however, I still have to accept that I live in the digital age with all the benefits and risks that come with it. Every modern method of storing images that I’m aware of, such as keeping photos on my phone or uploading them to a digital “cloud,” still leaves me vulnerable to hackers. That reality doesn’t change when I post images to a private Instagram account, so I’m always careful what pictures I take in the first place and what details I choose to share. I’ve made peace with the digital world I live in while at the same time being grateful that I’m giving my children access to their childhood memories using a method that won’t require them to sort through piles of faded old photographs with no semblance of order — or, worse, thousands upon thousands of digital images on an external hard drive.
And to the doubters who say we should just enjoy our kids instead of taking pictures of them constantly, I say that it’s possible to capture moments and be present in them. One of the benefits of owning a smartphone is that it’s always on me. I can live my life as I would anyway, and fully immerse myself in each experience and interaction. I just also take a picture or two — not 100. (I’m not that kind of Instagram user.)
Photo-journaling by way of Instagram works for me and my family for now, at this moment in our technological era. I’m always on the lookout for a better way to do anything, but right now it’s hard to beat the convenience and satisfaction I get from safeguarding our family’s memories this way. And there’s one thing that technology hasn’t changed: a hard-copy photo album is still the best way to look at pictures together.
Daryl Austin is a father of four, small-business owner, and writer based in Utah.