I am moving house in two weeks’ time and I have started sorting through my life. Yesterday I was sorting through some old photos and letters. There were no recent photos or letters. My recent photos and emails are stored on the internet and in ‘clouds’. How do we make sure that the digital age doesn’t take away our memories? How do we keep the digital gate across memory lane open?
I found bundles of letters from old boyfriends. I found letters from a holiday romance which started on a caravan site in Newquay when I was 18. For about three weeks after the end of the holiday we sent each other passionate letters. He sent me rose petals (which in the intervening 15 or so years have disintegrated and have turned the paper a greeny grey). The Royal Mail romance faded as quickly as my rather pathetic UK suntan, but it made me laugh sorting the letters last night.
Then, a year or so later came my 18 month relationship with a cartoonist and graphic designer. He wrote me some beautiful letters whilst we were apart during my first year of university. Every letter was a work of art. His handwriting was exquisitely crafted and each page was decorated with hand drawn cartoon images.
A few years later came another boyfriend and a bunch of letters from the start of our relationship when he was in Nigeria. The fact that he was in Nigeria was relevant. Email had taken hold by this time, but he was in the middle of the Nigerian jungle where phones and IT couldn’t reach. My letters were transported to Abuja (the capital) and then driven on a weekly basis to the closest village. It took about three weeks for each letter to arrive. This ex wrote long and interesting letters about his jungle experiences. He sent me a porcupine spine he had found in the jungle (it looks like a Chinese chopstick).
I should probably give these letters back to him at some point – I doubt he has his early Nigeria memories captured anywhere, but I don’t know that I want to; they are a vital part of my memory collection.
I have no letters from my most recent ex, the father of my son. I guess because neither of us ever went to the inches of the world that the internet has not conquered.
I remember how this letter writing made me feel. I remember the excitement of receiving a new letter, the enjoyment of taking time out to write a letter. It makes me a bit sad that good old fashioned letter writing, putting pen to paper, is something that my son may never do. In fact technology will have moved on and he may never even post on Facebook or tweet, or even send an email.
I also found two old laptop computers: laptops that I don’t use anymore but which I don’t want to throw away because they have important things stored on them, like the dissertation for my masters degree and a heap of unprinted photographs. One of these laptops doesn’t connect to the internet, so I have got to work out how to transfer the important stuff that I want to keep onto my mac book. I should probably print some of the photos.
A lot of us are writing blogs and taking photos to preserve memories for our children and grandchildren. We store them on the internet and in ‘clouds’? Will the internet of 2015 be accessible in 2035 or will our captured moments be lost in the ether?
We need to make sure that we protect these memories from technological change. We need to keep the digital gate across memory lane open.