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Digital Becomes Sentimental

I think we’re the first generation for whom the digital is becoming sentimental. Nostalgic. We’re the first who entered the digital world at 11, 12, maybe 13 and whose journey through adolescence into adulthood is painstaking documented on MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, and a slew of personal blogs like this one – for better or for worse.

What made me think about this was an app I have on my phone (I know this sounds silly but bear with me) called Timehop. If you don’t already have it, here’s how it works: every day it shows you your photos and social media activity for 1, 2, 3 etc. years before. I find that sometimes I have 8 or 10 years’ worth of activity, which takes me back to age 15 or so. Barely more than a child.

Yesterday it showed me a post from my then-friend, now-girlfriend. I realized that this daily activity of looking at Timehop is sentimental in a way that I never expected it to be. It’s like flipping through a photo album of past years.

Half of my life, more or less, is commemorated in photos – the physical ones, hard copies – housed in albums and (mostly) boxes at my parents’ house. The second half, starting around age 15, is stored in digital form, but no more organized than the boxes in my parents’ closet. They are strewn across websites, file folders, external hard drives, and flash drives. I find forgotten folders of digital photos with the same joy as finding a forgotten envelope of photos, looking as if they are fresh from the 1-hour photo department at CVS. What memories will I find inside?

little sister asleep, mid 90s

Our generation is half of one, half of the other. We’re fully digitized now, but not all of our memories are. We have to snap a cell phone photo of an old childhood photo to post a #tbt picture on Instagram. As we grow older, though, more and more of our memories are digital. Of course, there are pros and cons to this. But that’s not really what I’m here to write about. I just wanted to notice this sentimentality; notice that digitizing doesn’t in any way remove the human emotion and connection of our memories.

My Timehop memory yesterday was a comment on my Facebook wall from my girlfriend, 4 years ago: “life is simply amazing and no one seems to understand.”

As I wake up every day holding her, her breathing soft with sleep in the early morning, I have to agree. We’ve been through some pain between then and now, we’ve lost a little bit of that sparkle in our eye to student loans and job rejections, but life is simply amazing. And it’s simply wonderful to be served each day with little bytes of memory.


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