Forget-Me-Not: Memory in the Digital Age

I have a mild obsession with chronicling events. In any place I’ve lived, you can find the evidence: Ambiguously titled word documents in which I vent my temporary frustrations or reflect on the events of a day. The Five-Year Question journal, “Q&A” always at the end of my bookshelf. A bulging scrapbook in my childhood bedroom, containing everything from family photos to ripped corners of paper passed back and forth to write notes on in class. Dated, digital back-up folders of every photo I’ve ever taken. Hundreds of journals and sketchbooks at varying stages of completion in my closet. The fact that I actually committed to filming a “One Second Everyday” video. Okay, maybe “mild obsession” isn’t my best choice of words today. The point is that I am preoccupied with giving myself a record of time, and I have been for a long while.

Above: The “One Second Everyday” video mentioned (oh, the nostalgia)

It isn’t as if I don’t understand the reason why. It’s pretty simple actually- I’m terrified that I will forget about the vast majority of my life. This may be a natural, inevitable process, but I feel like it doesn’t have to be. There are so many beautiful things that happen each day- the old man at the coffee shop with long dreadlocks, small wire glasses, and a curly white moustache who told me I had nice shoes, the sheer quantity of whipped cream the barista blessed upon my beverage, the beautiful black Australian Shephard with one blue and one brown eye who pranced towards me through the fallen leaves. I never want to be in a position where I forget that any of this ever happened.

Luckily, we’re born in a time where we have so many options, extensions of ourselves which make capturing moments effortless. My camera roll, my texting history, my social media profiles- they all mark the passage of time, document events that have happened and when. Though research shows that technology may be having an adverse impact on people’s memories, I feel that, while I may not remember as much as I could on a daily basis, my chronicling habit grants me definite access to my past. At any time, I could choose to go back. Sometimes I do, whether it be showing someone a cringe-worthy video I made in middle school, scrolling through all of my old digital drawings with my best friend, or re-reading some of the first conversations I had online with my boyfriend of almost six years.

This is not to say there aren’t negative impacts of having your life chronicled online. It can become nearly impossible to escape your past, and any mistakes within it. Everyone can think of an event that they would rather forget about. In addition to this, various companies, from social media monarchs to the organizations which run our very machines, constantly record this data. In a way, it’s them that incentivize us to tell our stories to a world that is both constantly and never listening. I think, above all, that is what is most important to understand. If you can comprehend the range at which it is possible to be heard while simultaneously knowing how little others understand your meaning, you have little to fear in telling your story. What matters is that you are doing it for you, whether that be because you want to ramble about your day, because you don’t want to forget, or because you feel there is something so pressing that you need to get it out into the world. Though you may soon forget you said anything at all, there are some people that will hear you who will not forget.

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