Those of us who grew up prior to the digital age will struggle to recall memories of being young or old relationships, but according to Professor Hoskins of the University of Glasgow, social media could actually reinforce our memories and preserve them forever as iMemory.
The earliest memory I have is of sitting in a buggy with a plastic covering. I was roughly two years old and I distinctly recall pressing my finger against the plastic as rain droplets pelted against the covering. According to Dr Duncan Banks; a lecturer with the Open University, childhood memories are rare, so this memory must have had enough impact for me to hold on to. In truth, I have always had a love of being in the rain and so in my own mind, I have reinforced this memory from my toddler years. Now in my 30s, I transgress to that time with acute fondness, although the memory could well be re-created as a ‘romanticized’ story to explain my happiness in the rain. So how reliable are our memories?
New research into those growing up in a digital age, show that memories can be created in digital form as visually uploaded experiences. Due to search engines, email and social media, they are stored forever online. Professor Hoskins coined the phrase ‘iMemory’ to pay tribute to this evolution and life-long digital memory encapsulation. To have this tap-able storage, means that memories can be ‘searched’ and re-experienced in real-time. It also improves ‘reliability’ as there is visual proof the event took place.
Note: iMemory – Not to be confused with memory upgrades for digital devices like smartphones.
iMemory: A living digital archive
I have various videos of dance demonstrations; a snap-shot of me as ‘ballet, tap and modern dancing supremo’ at the age of 10-18. Generation X and Y will remember the special tapes that you could insert your video camera recordings into, or the hours it would take to transfer to a regular tape. Either way, as video players are practically taboo, my dance memories are now locked away in a private cupboard or box in the loft. Easily lost. Easily forgotten.
This is not the case with digital. Photos and videos can be stored online and accessed easily via accounts and downloads. Search engine searches are trickier, as newly uploaded files rise to the top and older files sink. But all in all, a digital archive is permanently available.
‘The faded and fading past of old school friends, former lovers and all that could and should have been forgotten are made part of a living archive of Google, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook ….. Digital media is not a benign extension of memory – rather we have lost control, we have given memory away.’ Professor Hopkins, University of Glasgow, Metro
As the quote above reminds us, some memories should be allowed to fade privately. As we age or our life situation changes, certain memories can cause pain or embarrassment. A former partner, best friend or deceased family member can ‘haunt’ us.
Still, many iMemories can be used as keepsakes, like this beautiful video composition for Jaxon. His Father took a daily photo of him from birth until the age of one. A fellow YouTube user turned them into this video as a kind gesture. It has been shared with the world and gained in excess of 23,000 views on YouTube. A memory ‘given away’ to strangers, who in turn can share it as I have done. Little Jaxon will not be able to fully appreciate this keepsake until he’s much older.
According to the Daily Mail, one in eight parents create a Facebook account for their baby. Some long before the birth to upload sonograms.
Should iMemories be public or private?
‘The advent of Facebook was as though we had all suddenly moved to live as Truman Burbank in The Truman Show, barely noticing, although being vaguely aware, that our every digital move is tracked….’ Professor Hopkins, University of Glasgow, Metro
In the Truman Show, Truman’s whole life was broadcast as a live TV show. All of the people he interacted with and thought were family and friends were actually actors. He was completely unaware of being filmed.
Those of us partaking in digital communications are not controlled. We know that we are sharing information and what information we are sharing. What we may be unaware of is WHO is watching and HOW MUCH we are giving away. Each written message, image and video can be seen by friends, friends of friends and in cases, strangers.
Be aware that everyone can see if they want to
Over the course of my time on social media, I’ve heard about divorces and break ups, headaches and terminal illnesses, new births, affairs, successes and crying jags. From this collection of daily events, I have a deep connection to those I follow. Now, many of these are long-term friends and family members, but equally, many are people I have never met. I know intimate details of the lives of people I’ve never even spoken to.
iMemories and digital archives are becoming more publicly accessible with potential employers checking Facebook profiles before making hiring decisions and the rise of ‘creeping’ (digital equivalent of stalking). The line between private and public is severely blurred, hidden behind privacy settings, a desire to reach out to others and a misunderstanding of online.
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