I often don’t give my brain enough credit for the processing it does each day. When I fail to remember something important I’m quick to be self-critical, chastising my brain for forgetting. But this doesn’t take into account the thousands of things my brain “deletes” so that I can go through my daily routine unhampered by mundane details that frankly would just clog up the gray matter.
I noticed that a lot of people use social media apps, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to capture a moment in time of something funny, cool, extraordinary, etc. with a post and/or a photo. Surely these small snippets in time are something that you will want to remember forever and ever. But to me, it’s externally storing weird, silly things that I forgot for a reason. I trust my brain to go through the accumulation of a day’s memories and do some deleting so that it doesn’t get cluttered up.
A lot of stuff I have posted on social media, which admittedly is not much, is nice to have and look at, but if it wasn’t there my life would not be greatly impacted. Maybe I should feel relieved to have some memories captured in external storage where I can benefit from having them, without taxing my precious brain to remember all these tiny, insignificant things.
In the last year I’ve read about memory apps that will aggregate timelines, posts and images from different sources, social media included, to provide the user with a “memory”. The apps make connections by linking dates, places and people together, but this is not necessarily how a human brain would remember something. Human brains link and connect things in all kinds of strange, meandering ways. Maybe the trigger is a smell, a person, a type of food, or an event. The path taken to the memory is quite different than the one prescribed by a memory app suggesting how and what I should be remembering when.
Are we losing something by keeping too much or by “forcing” the reconstruction of memories? I’m assuming many people appreciate the benefits that come with using social media to keep track of events and people and places visited. If my brain forgets something, I trust the reason behind it and appreciate my brain’s amazing capabilities to do this work for me.