Many photos were taken right after Argentine cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was selected Pope. But the one that speaks volumes to me about the world in which we live was a distant shot that captured a ton of little and not-so-little screens turned toward the balcony in the Vatican from which he waved.

Nearly every hand, it seemed, held an iPad or a cell phone camera, turned toward the new pontiff to capture a moment in history.

Had I been there, I'd have aimed my smartphone at him, too. It was a historic event on multiple levels. And honestly, the screens didn't create a problem, either, because those using the devices were on the ground in the courtyard below the balcony from which the new Pope waved. The action wasn't straight ahead and thus obscured.

A friend and his wife weren't so lucky recently when they went to their daughter's sixth-grade promotion exercise. They got there early enough to get good seats, but not early enough to get in front of all the people in front of them who thought it was fine to hold up tablets-turned-video-cameras to capture the entire event.

Handheld technology has made it possible for virtually anyone who has a phone with any capability at all to capture everything from a kid's birthday party to a fast-approaching tornado. We can snap photos of people doing things we think are remarkable or wrong or funny. And new tablet technology takes it all to an even better level.

I went on a quick business trip recently and didn't bother to take my camera. I had my cell phone and my tablet and got a few scenic shots on the trip. It was easy. I liked it.

That same technology sometimes makes us thoughtless. I think it may also prevent us from actually experiencing our own experiences.

When my pal talks about his daughter's promotion program, he may tell some people what she said or how she looked or how proud he was of her. But while he was noticing all those things, he couldn't help but notice, as well, the number of people who were so busy with their gadgets, from surfing the Internet to posting statuses and checking their messages, that they could not possibly have avoided missing a great deal of the program.

I've been that person before, so busy taking pictures during my vacation that I didn't actually get around to seeing the scenery through which we traveled until I got home and went through the photographs. Sadly, if I had a quarter for every time I mumbled "uh huh" to a kid while I was checking emails, I'd be able to buy something nice.

I love technology. But I am beginning a journey to wrestle it under better control in my own life. I don't want to look back at photos and have no actual memory of events or places because I missed them due to digital distraction. I will never stop taking pictures, but hope to pick my shots after I've examined my surroundings, instead of filming with all the attention and intention of a surveillance camera.

2 comments on this story

I also hope never to be the person who stands in front, holding up tablet-sized devices to block every view but my own, because what I want is apparently more important than anyone else. The pool photography concept is a good one: Someone needs to shoot the whole thing to share with everyone. At the least, a small section that won't block views needs to be set up or parents need to be told they have 10 seconds while their kid is center stage. The event is for everyone.

Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by email at Follow her on Twitter at loisco.