Click. Snap. Post. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr.
We’ve become so used to having cameras at our fingertips. One camera on our phones, another on the tablet and computer, probably a compact camera in the bag and a DSLR for special occasions. Capturing images of life and everything that happens has never been easier. The ease at which I can take a picture of something nowadays means that I have folders and folders filled to the brim with pictures (multiple copies usual), some of which I end up never looking at a second time once it’s been put in its place.
In this age, every moment of life is captured. Every person you meet, everything you’ve done is catalogued, documented and filed away somewhere. A lifetime of memories stored away in 1s and 0s. It’s just waiting for the day when you go, “Oh yeah, I have a picture of him. Would you like to see?” Forgot how someone or something looks life? Just pull up a picture and instant memory retrieval.
But this hasn’t always been the case. Not even for my generation. As a child of the 90s, I’ve known a life of manual cameras with winding films and the need to develop them. You had to be patient, you had to pray the picture turned out well. Instant was a marvel. Instant was… almost impossible. But really, you don’t even need to go that far back to know a life completely different than the one lived now. Ten years ago, having a camera phone was a huge deal. Not everyone had one, especially if you were young. They were expensive and took photos are crappy resolutions. So they weren’t put to use that much. Not as we do now.
And so, memories 10 years (and all the years before that) ago were exactly that – just memories. Captured moments, scenes and people that existed in one place and one place only: Your brain. If it wasn’t stored properly, you’d forget it. It simply disappeared. Sometimes you did remember it, but with time, pieces of those memories chipped away until it simply became nothing. Or worse – leftover pieces that remind you only that you’ve forgotten something and never what it is that you’ve forgotten.
I think back to old relationships, ones that lasted months and years; relationships that existed before the ability to capture moments were so easy and I find myself only remembering a minute fraction of it. All that time has been whittled down to a fleeting memory of a moment of shared laughter, a loving embrace or even heated arguments. Beyond select events, everything else is in the irretrievable past. And often I find myself wishing that I had done more to remember the moments. The more I forget, the more precious the ones I can remember, become.
All that exists of someone who was once incredibly important in your life are the physical things. The handwritten notes. The gift from that one vacation. Maybe there are emails and text messages, but even those are few and far in between. There is no proof. No way to recollect and relive the moments, the joys and the sadness. All that is left is a cognitive representation of it in your mind.
And I think we forget that. With how easy it is to capture memories, we forget a time when it wasn’t so easy. We take capturing moments for granted. We forget to see how precious each moment in life is when we think we can go back to it. Sure, it’s nice to know that when your neurons start to fire a little slower and start to fail more, there’s a back up somewhere. There’s a picture that can help remind you of that one moment in time. But maybe we shouldn’t be given that privilege if it means we forget to be in the moment and to take it for granted.
Maybe we should live life as if the moments cannot be recorded, and to treat each as one that will melt away with the next fall of rain.