It’s Time To Put Down Your Damn Phone

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I grew up loving horse racing. My parents were divorced, and many a Sunday was spent at the track with my dad. Probably not a super appropriate father-daughter activity, but I loved seeing the horses and my dad apparently had a raging gambling problem that I was blissfully unaware of, so it worked for us. We’ve even gone to a few of the races in the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Since my dad passed away a few years ago, I was pretty excited to watch the Belmont Stakes this weekend and see if American Pharoah would win the Triple Crown, because I knew that it would be something that he would have been so excited about.

Being my father’s daughter, I happened to be at a casino during the race. The screams of excitement, likely from people who had put down a little bit of money on the favorite, when the horse became the first one in 37 years to win the Triple Crown created an atmosphere of excitement. I imagined the only place that would have had more excited fans than the sports book of that casino was the track itself. Until I saw this week’s Sports Illustrated cover.

American Pharoah is only the second horse this decade to be featured on a Sports Illustrated cover (the other was 2009 long shot Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird), so that in itself makes the cover remarkable. But what’s really remarkable is the thing you notice almost more than you do the beautiful horse crossing the finish line in the background: the plethora of people holding up their cell phones in the foreground. All of these people, witnessing an event that hasn’t happened in a generation, and instead of watching it live and in person, they are watching through the lens of their phone, trying to capture a picture.

Last year, after a debate with my mother, I embarked on a little experiment during which I disconnected myself for the day (and documented it for TSM). What I learned was that sometimes it was better to leave my phone in my bag and experience things as they happened, instead of trying to document it for the world to see on social media. And while I’m certainly not great at it (I’m the WORST when it comes to checking text messages at the dinner table – sorry to my friends), I’ve gotten better, particularly when I make an effort to be conscious about it. I recently took a European vacation with a friend and I came home with almost no pictures. I think I Instagrammed, like, two things, mainly so that my coworkers actually believed I was in Europe as the reason why I wasn’t answering their emails. Sure, that means that I don’t have any photos from the cruise we took up the Thames, but I can instead actually remember all of things I saw and all the things the tour guide said about them instead of having to look at pictures to recall them.

Back to these folks at the Belmont finish line, phones in the air. I understand the urge to capture the moment on your phone, I really do. There are once in a lifetime moments that we want to remember forever, and it’s our instinct to want to have a photo to remember them by. But then I think about my dad, who had barely mastered the art of the flip phone before he passed away. I think about how he would been there (because he would have found a way to be, trust me) and how he would have been so excited to watch that moment happen, with his phone nowhere in sight. He would have had that memory etched in his mind forever, not on his cell phone. We can always buy a picture of the race, the game, the tourist attraction or even the wedding. So maybe sometimes, we’d all be a little bit better off if we leave the photo-taking to the professionals who are there to capture the moment on film, and we can capture the memory in our minds instead.

Image via Shutterstock

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Jenna Crowley

Jenna used to be known as 2NOTBrokeGirls, but then one of the girls actually went broke, so she's struck out on her own. Jenna spends her free time saving the world, one sorority girl at a time (usually while wearing yoga pants), questioning why she decided to get a doctorate, documenting her love of all things cheese related, and hosting the new PGP podcast Don't Take It From Us. You can ask her anything you want about football, using your boobs to get what you want, and pizza at @JennaLCrowley on Twitter or via email at

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