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Friday, Mar 1, 2024
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Experience versus memory: In defense of memory

When I was growing up, my mother always had a camera on her to take pictures.

She took pictures of my first Christmas, my first steps, my first words, the first time I read a book by myself and my first, second, third and 100th day at school. She took pictures of birthday parties, weddings, celebrations, funerals, graduations and just happy moments in life. She was relentless in her photography. It soon got the point where some members of the family just held up their hands whenever she came around because they knew that my mother was going to try and take their photo. My mother just wanted to capture the moment.

In a time before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other like networking sites, my mother used her camera as a mode of social media. She would take the picture, go to Walgreens to develop them and post them to her many photo albums. Whenever people came over to our house, she would share the photo albums for others to comment and like. There were thousands of photos, and my mom was always ready to show them off to anyone who would sit on her couch and listen.

Today, we live in world where, with a few strokes of the finger, you can post and share a picture to the entire world. People from miles away can like and comment on it within seconds. In our world, many can see into your life and judge it as they may, reading it like a book and analyzing it for its meaning. Millions of people post pictures and statuses in order to share their lives to the world or maybe a specific portion of the world. For why they do it, the reasons are limitless, but once that picture is online, all the likes, comments and shares have stopped trickling in and that photo is at the end of your timeline because you have moved onto another concert, another meeting with your friend, another family reunion, or just another part of your life, what does that picture become to you?

My mother took pictures not because she wanted everyone to like or comment on them and not because she wanted to be judged for them. She took those photos for the future. Many, myself included, take pictures not for the likes or the comments or the shares or the whatever else. We take them so that we can look back on them later and say, “That was a great night!” or, “Remember when that happened?” or, “I miss them,” or, “They are just as beautiful in this photo as they always are.” Pictures and social media as a whole are ways of capturing the moment so that we can always remember those times of fun, joy, humor and a good life. Social media is outlet for and to memory. With it, we can experience our memories again and make more experiences to remember.

My mother passed away when I was 13 years old. However, she lives on with me through the photos - the moments - that she captured. I can look through her photo albums and relive my memories with her even though I will not be able to experience life with her again. Pictures and social media have that power. They can do the one thing that experience alone cannot, and that is bringing those moments and lives that are dead back to life.



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