Memory in a digital age

OpenairStGallen

At the St.Gallen Open Air a couple of weeks ago I witnessed a funnily odd scene: Two girls were jumping through the mud, while another girl was taking their picture. However, after ten seconds they stopped dancing, ran up to their friend, checked the picture taken, and then returned to their spot and started dancing again. This scene repeated for almost half an hour. Whenever I looked at them they seemed to be focused on producing images of them enjoying the festival. Did they really enjoy the festival or were they just concerned with creating the image they tried to portray? I do not know.

I noticed myself that I tend to remember events better, when I have pictures. I have never been an avid photographer and often it is sufficient for me, when my friends take pictures and I see them afterwards. I do not have to take pictures myself in order to remember. Sometimes, at concerts, on vacation, or other events, I prefer to leave the camera and try to be in the moment.

In times when you can easily store 20.000 pictures of vacations, I wonder how much pictures that are taken quickly and easily are actually helping you to create and remember richer experiences or if they take up so much time to produce that you are simply trying to do certain things in order to have your picture taken with it but not truly enjoying and living them.

Pictures and letters are also records of our existence that we leave behind when we are no longer there. My mum has been collecting lots of letters from my great great grandparents and transcribing them to a readable format (they are all written in old German “Sütterlin”, which I – like many others of my generation – can hardly read). I love reading through these letters since they tell you lot about how my ancestors lived, what happened in their lives, and what was important back then.

I always wonder what will remain of our fast-paced conversations on Facebook, Whatsapp or Instagram. Will there be someone in 100 years reading through thousands of WhatsApp messages in order to find out how we lived?  Digital communication is great at that very moment, however, writing on paper has another quality to me – reflection for myself and creating something comparably lasting.

 

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