The Facebookization of Memory


I admit it. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook that's been going on for 4 years now. Yes, I know most of you think I must be a latecomer, and I must admit I held out after all my friends had started using it. But finally, I caved. I made an account, uploaded my pictures, and created a monster. For 4 years, I threw up my camping snapshots, family vacation photos, and pet pics. I took the obligatory "girl in the mirror with camera" photos, and pictures of my feet. I've got online evidence of new tattoos (whoops! Sorry, Dad) and a myriad of documented hairstyles. Pretty nifty, I thought. My adventures were described in online albums with catchy names like "peanut gallery" and "this'n'that", and I always chose the best photos of the night, the highlights, to represent my memories.

Now, who can guess where this is going?

Out of a weekend at the lake and 200 shots, I might post 30 of the best shots. When I want to show my photographs to friends and family, I'd pull open my account and bring up my albums. A visit, a weekend, a friend condensed into 30 pictures or less. I forgot about all the shots that didn't make the cut. My poor neglected photos, abandoned as jpeg files somewhere on my laptop, the unchosen ones. It becomes so that only the photos you look at are the ones you remember, and thus those other imperfect pictures with their imperfect memories are forgotten. Every now and then, maybe once a year, I actually look at all my photos instead of just the highlights, and you know what? Memories I had forgotten come flooding back.

I learned to cherish my forgotten photos the hard way. Last year my computer crashed, and I lost everything. Except for what had been put on Facebook, thousands of photos were forever lost. I took them for granted, and I paid for it. I still make Facebook albums featuring the highlights of my photo adventures, but I have a triple threat system of backing up: archival prints, disks, and an online storage system such as foto depot.

I love the highlights, but cherish your lowlights too.