How do you value an experience?

This article was originally written by me in Swedish for Mindpark: Vad är en upplevelse värd? in Swedish

Experiences. We’ve all had them, right? Things that changed our lives, shaped us as human beings; they might have inspired us, or made us avoid something forever.

Going to concerts

If I look to myself: I love music and going to concerts. There’s something magic in seeing people you look up to in real life perform just what you admire them for, and at the same time share this passion, joy and emotional peak with other people who feel the same way – people you might not even have one other single thing in common with.

But, something I’ve noticed as of lately when I go to concerts is people’s will, no scratch that, people’s determination to document as much as possible of the concert. They’ve brought their mobile phones and are taking pictures and filming almost constantly during the different performances, and the sea of people in the crowd is filled to the brim with glowing screens.

Document, document, document

And that’s just what symbolizes what I have been pondering a lot: the value of an experience nowadays isn’t based as much on how you actually feel when you’re there, but instead on one’s memories alternatively documentation of what took place; the concrete evidence you have that something actually happened are priceless. People can ask you whether there were a lot of people present, what the artists look liked etc, but all answers are relative – a picture on the other hand of the event gives the one who asks the possibility to put their own values into it, to see the “truth”, if you so will.

Personal focus

Recently, I saw a US comedian on TV, and he gave an interesting reflection on one part of his life. His claim was:

I don’t even have sex for pleasure anymore. I only do it to get good memories to jerk off to…

The important thing for him was how he remembered what happened, not what actually took place. And just look at the trend for people to document their regular lives, as well as their sexual adventures, and then also to share these on the Internet: the only thing that matters is how good you can imagine it was.

How do we remember things?

The trend seems to go towards to what’s in your head, your recollection of the event in question, by far, beats the actual experience. Take women who give birth: it seems to be, to say the least, a painful experience where they both physically and verbally strongly express that they will never ever go through something like that again. But ask them some time later, and even if they vaguely seem to remember some kind of discomfort, most of them have very positive memories and wouldn’t hesitate about giving birth again. I think that’s an example that the human body, via hormones, assists us us in creating a positive memory of rough patches we’ve gone through.

Remember when we have climbed a mountain, run our first long distance, made a fool of ourselves in front of a crowd, said something extremely embarrassing: we thought we’d die, right? But over time our brains have completely managed to suppress, or relieve, the troubling thoughts and feelings we have had, and replaced/complemented them with constructive, and in some cases, undivided positive memories. Time heals all wounds.

Lending your memory a helping hand

As we all know, our memories are fairly unreliable. Have you ever seen something that you seem to remember was your favorite toy when you were a kid, but it turned out it was your sibling’s? Or, without a doubt, remembered how you met a celebrity or achieved something you had always dreamed about, only to find out later that it was only a fabricated memory, because wouldn’t it had been great if it had happened?

Since we can’t completely rely on our memories, a stronger and stronger need evolves to document everything. Just to be sure, complement our brain or simply to be able to persuade our surrounding that it actually happened and that you’re not just another pathological liar. And with the technical possibilities on offer today, it has become simpler than ever before.


Me myself, I’m more interested in experiences and emotions rather than money, but bearing in mind what I stated above, think about the business opportunities. The social media, viral marketing and the utmost alternatives to create experiences, and offering possibilities for people to document.

Getting back to concerts: it’s strictly forbidden to bring a camera with you into most venues. Why?! For crying out loud, it’s a unique opportunity to get people to feel that they’re part of something, to let them create their own personal memories of what happened, and the possibility, preferably in real time, to spread this to other people. Instead of mobile phones, allow people to bring real cameras, video cameras and tape recorders to concerts. There’s no risk that they, at least when it comes to quality, could compete with the official photographers at the scene – those professionals have exclusive access to positions and space that no one in the audience has. And, my estimate is that 99.9% of the people in the audience neither have the ambition, experience nor equipment to, on a professional level, compete with the official photographers.

Whatever context we’re talking about, consider the option for people to document it. Offer them the possibility to, mentally, be in control, even though that, in the greater whole, maybe is just an illusion; let them partake on their own terms.

How can you really value an experience?


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