“You have memories with your Mom and 6 other people today.” Thanks, Facebook. I realize I must have clicked OK at some point, but I’m unsure now about these daily forced marches down memory lane, especially since my mother discovered #TBT and insists on uploading embarrassing pictures of me and my siblings. Each morning, usually around 7:00am, there’s another notification pinging at me, another thing to remember.
When I click on my memories, I find a strange assortment of things. There are random quotes from periods of transition in my life (I have a habit of waxing philosophical when I am moving to a new place), or inside jokes with ‘friends’ I haven’t really spoken with in 7 or 8 years. I find check-ins from places that don’t hold any real significance in my life, and links to stories or articles on the internet that have long lain dormant. This page has expired. So has my memory, apparently. Facebook’s memory is stellar (and programmed to be so) while my own seems barely functional.
The memories Facebook provides to me come in spurts, and I appreciate the timeline provided. 8 years ago I traded a lot of silly links and jokes with a recent graduate of the university where I was working at the time. 5 years ago, I reactivated my Facebook account and got in touch with a handful of classmates and teachers from my high school years. Last year I checked in at the international terminal at the airport before boarding a flight to El Salvador.
Pics or it didn’t happen, they say. These notifications show me the pics. These things did happen. But I don’t remember the particulars of most of these events, these conversations. Why were these things funny or significant? I try to remember, racking my brain for any semblance of storyline, or inkling of importance. What was so special about this joke or event that at one point in time I deemed it important enough to establish long threads of conversation with others? What was it about that YouTube clip that we found so funny, since it barely registers a reaction today? As I sit each morning, staring at the latest string of ‘memories,’ I try to reflect back and recapture the specifics of the time, place and moment. I usually come up empty and am left, of late, disappointed.
It seems that, at one point in time, I was really close with this or that friend, but now I’m not. How could I have forgotten what Facebook shows me were warm relationships filled with humor and good cheer? And why do I continue to subject myself to this daily taunting, this regular reminder of my poor ability to remember, let alone maintain these relationships? These ‘memories’ seem to only remind me of things and people I’ve forgotten. Thanks, Facebook.
But when I stop worrying about my poor memory and take a look at the ‘memories’ Facebook offers me, I find a gift, a sort of consolation in the comments section. Because while I find I have no hold of the particulars of the past, I still have something: the opportunity to think about the many people who have come into my life over the years, the opportunity to reminisce freely without specificity.
So, no, I don’t remember why Jessy and I traded so many posts 8 years ago, but I’m grateful that we did, and grateful that Facebook tells me we did, because now, today, she is on my mind. With a couple of clicks I know she’s married and pregnant and so her husband and unborn child are on my mind now, too, and in my prayers.
And I don’t remember being as close to Kristen as Facebook tells me we were, but with the early morning notification of nostalgia egging me on, I click on her profile and see evidence of her passionate commitment to the youth of her community and her deep love of her hometown. (She’s from there?!)
The opportunity to reminisce without specificity is a gift, to be sure. And I appreciate this opportunity and what it points to: my rich life history, filled with interactions with others and the people and causes they love. These others were important in my life and, even if I can’t remember things exactly as Facebook tells me they happened, these people remain important in my life and I’m grateful for the reminder. Thanks, Facebook.
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