Technology Is Stealing Your Memories
Imagine a time we went to concerts and stood, or sat in front of an artist and embraced the performance and everything that came with it. Remember all of the neurons firing off? The sounds, the smells and the sensations of being in close quarters with strangers, being lifted in spirit with the common appreciation for what we were experiencing.
In a micro second in our history, human history, we have essentially stripped our ability to observe outside a digital construct. Every single day, we observe others observing the world around us through a tiny screen. I imagine a lab, with people in white coats, observing from above as they send electric impulses to our brains every time we use our phones to mark an event in our lives.
Do you trust your ability to accurately remember important events in your life?
I was watching golf yesterday. Tiger Woods, a pretty big deal in the golf world making perhaps one of the greatest sports comebacks in history. It’s all playing out on my screen and, being a avid fan of the sport and knowing the back story — it’s kind of a big deal. But then I notice something striking in the gallery. It’s not the collective but rather two people just off in the background. My guess it was dad and his son. Dad was watching intently as Tiger went through his practice routine. Son had his phone held up in front of this face, viewing the moment through the tiny screen. Tiger swings, much to the delight of the gallery and no sooner did the ball leave the tee, when son was replaying to scene to a less than impressed father who was now being asked to share this moment, the moment he just watched with his eyes.
Now to be fair, the son could have been watching anything on the screen. And maybe dad wasn’t unimpressed but it dawned on me in that moment; we tend to put our trust in and rely on a digital account of events rather than using the incredible gift of sight, to replay those events in our mind.
This revelation was startling as I started replaying events in my head we now deem as normal. In a incredibly short time, roughly a decade, we have modified thousands of years of behaviour and interaction with others. All the events, parties, weddings and concerts I’ve attended started flooding back…and it was sobering.
Many of us have become victims of this bizarre behaviour. We’re photo journalists, videographers and weird, virtual voyeurs. With each new advancement in the world of apple or galaxy, our need to document important events now comes through the tiny lens on our phone. It doesn’t seem to be a conscious decision, so much as an accepted practice. We’ve started observing this giant, amazing and most colorful world in a squeezed down replica of that world, on a screen the size of our hands.
Sure, we’ll go back at some point and relive the moment. Maybe. And let’s say we do. The images we produce with those little devices are pretty good. The reproductions almost look real…except, they’re not. The are close facsimiles of a real world but if you look closer, even if you have the latest high definition camera/monitor — it’s still a reproduction. A digital image made up of numbers, ones and zeros to be exact. It becomes a scrub as the science of digital copy produces a best guess of what we would be able to see through the complexity of our eyes, attached to our brains.
Best guess. Which is what we do when we observe anything in the universe. When we look up at the stars in the skies, your version will always be slightly different than mine. Our brains work feverishly to stitch all the pieces together and produce an organic experience, no two alike, much like our personalities.
This unfortunately is where the narrative gets murky. Is a digital reproduction close enough we no longer need to rely on our ability to produce the image in our brains? As time moves on, I find it increasingly difficult to piece memories together — the important moments which not only give you a visual image but everything coming with the image: smells, auditory and tactile. I could chalk it up to old age but my experiences pre-digital are in tact. Digging through the memory vault, I can put incredible context to experiences both good and bad.
And herein lies my biggest fear with the way we as a society have chosen (yes, chosen) to view our universe. We’re cherry picking. Instagram has become a vessel to share our best moments with the herd. There’s no time for the tragedy, the depression, the quiet times. Every image we scroll through demonstrates how great our life can be, if we do what everyone else is doing.
We now pack the shit experiences in a locked box, somewhere in our mind. There’s no longer time to sit back and reflect on those darkest moments we rely on to build our character. If we’re not living them through our 8" screen, we’re looking to our “friends” to fill up the dead space.
Nobody wants to miss out. Everyone wants to keep up. While sitting here writing, I imagined a concert and there was nobody in the audience. Instead, there were thousands of unattended poles, with cameras attached, all capturing the same moment but somehow individualized with the idea being one phone might capture the memory slightly different than another.
Who knows? In this incredibly complex world we inhabit, perhaps each individual phone does capture a unique moment for each individual owner, if we really do all view the world slightly differently. In the end it will come down to our memories outside a digital construct. Maybe in time we will all put our phones away for the big moments. Imagine sitting around a table post moment, talking about the moment, rather than commenting via text on the perfect shot the person sitting next to you just posted on Instagram.
The global consciousness being what it is; I like to think we’re all starting to come to the same conclusion: Maybe it’s time we took our memories back.