We forget where we put things, people’s names or what we ate for breakfast this morning. Now we forget, in addition to the aforementioned things:
- documents we created
- what’s on our hard drives
- important email conversations
- the thousands of images & video still waiting to be organized…
yet once we rediscover these things, a memory appears, or a sudden rush of emotion. Perhaps it is for these moments that we like to hoard our possessions, especially in digital formats.
Forgetting, however, is part of being human. As a result of this human characteristic, we have always devised ways to capture important information in some sort of external “memory.” Until a couple decades ago, we would carefully select which things were worth remembering outside of our brains. Formats varied and included things like cassette tapes, film reels, paper, slides, photographs, floppy discs, CDs. Before that things like stone tablets and scrolls would have been used to record society’s most important memories. Prior to cheap, abundant digital storage, saving everything was impossible because of three key factors:
Now we take it for granted that we can save everything digitally like emails, documents, photos, video, music, etc. Is this a benefit? Do we need to remember everything? Are we able to keep track of what’s been saved?
I’ve experienced plenty of things I would actually like to forget. I’m relieved no digital reminders exist for some of my most embarrassing, humiliating or painful experiences. Another benefit to not having painful experiences captured in an external memory is the freedom my brain has to recreate and evolve the memories into something that works better for me. It’s part of being human that goes along with the forgetting. I’ve learned you can’t change what happened, but you can change how you interpret a memory over time, or just forget about it completely. Forgive and forget, right?
This is not to say that we shouldn’t use available resources for an external memory. But I feel like we save things too quickly without any regard to what we’re saving or why. While it can be fun to uncover long, lost treasures when cleaning up clutter, it makes me wonder: if we don’t remember we have it in the first place, is it such a big deal if we don’t have it at all?
Do you save more because of available digital storage? Cast your vote in this week’s poll.