Forget to Remember

Imagine yourself at a concert. (It does not really matter what kind of music genre, but for the sake of the scenario, maybe some pop artist?) You can hear the beginning of a new song and immediately recognize it from your own playlist. Everyone else does too. Which results in grabbing your phone in a panic and, hopefully, being able to film the whole song. With the thought: ‘When I play this back I will remember everything exactly as I experienced it right now.’ But, in the end, this video gets lost forever in your google drive and like many more videos, forgotten.

With the coming of new media technologies and especially the digital age it is easier and easier to capture and preserve anything we like at any time we deem necessary. From capturing your breakfast to filming a fight on the street. Some people even make a lot of money with filming their daily lives and posting it on Youtube for the whole world to see. But, why do we want to capture everything? Does this mean we are remembering more, or are we actually forgetting more?

The urge to preserve everything comes from the anxiety of forgetting. Look back at the scenario, this is a situation that many would not want to forget. Thus, we try and capture the moment. Because it is special, it is part of a certain experience we had or an experience that, in a way, formed our self-identity. This means when something is unique, we feel the urge to capture and preserve it. To be able to look back at it.

But, there are two problems with this urge to preserve. The first, we do not only capture special moments but every moment. We start with only taking pictures of things we find special or remarkable, situations we might want to share with others. But, one night I made a lovely meal for myself and felt the immediate need to take a picture of it. And the night after, I do it again. And again. And again. In the end, we start to not only capture remarkable things but everything that is ‘special’ in one way or another. Which leads to constantly capturing everything.

The second problem is the result of the first problem. When we capture everything, there is no selection anymore. When we start to capture everything we find even a little interesting, the selectiveness falls away. First, we classified situations into two categories. 1: Remarkable 2: Not remarkable. When we took a picture or felt the need to capture something, it was a situation following from the first category. Something that was special in a way. But now, what we find special or worth preserving, has almost no selection. Everything falls under category 1. Which means we are constantly busy with capturing and preserving (and maybe even sharing) everything.

The fault within capturing everything is the intention. We try and capture it, initially to preserve it, and to not forget it. But when everything is being captured and being selective is harder than ever, we forget to look back. We may capture everything, store it in the Cloud, and then forget about its existence. Maybe once a year, you will organize the Cloud, throw some stuff away (but only because there was no storage space left, so you had to delete some). But in the end, we forget about the videos and photos we have taken throughout the years.

But why do we forget it when we intended to not forget it? We started taking the pictures to be sure to remember the situation, so why do we then forget it afterwards? It seems like a paradox. We preserve to forget. Or, we forget to remember. The reason we are forgetting the pictures we take or the videos we film is because of the amount we end up with. Nowadays we take so many pictures, and it can be done so easily and be stored so easily. We have no filter anymore. We capture everything, delete nothing and end up with four thousand pictures on our iPhones. The number of media documents we receive each day is too much to remember. And thus, we forget.

It is of course not a bad thing to capture everything. I mean, go ahead, nobody will stop you. In essence, there is nothing wrong with wanting to take pictures or videos. What I tried to point out, and this is what I think is important to change, is the intention we take the pictures with. It is all about awareness. Being aware of capturing everything, but also being aware of the risk we might forget all of it. So, it is not a ‘bad’ thing to vlog or to film an entire concert, just rethink your own intention by taking the picture or filming the video. Change your intention. Because nowadays remembering, means forgetting.