Last month I read an article in Wired about a woman who remembers everything. You name a date and she’ll tick off hundreds of events that have happened to her on this date. The publicity eventually attracted Wired. The article reached the new conclusion that the reason she remembers so much is because she has a form of OCD that makes her take detailed notes on her life which she feels compelled to re-read.
I found this interesting because I kept a journal back around 2000 for a few years. When I go back and read the detailed entries about my day, things that had all but completely disappeared from my mind rush back. Stories and events that were such a big deal, then doomed to be forgotten, are revived. Nostalgia aside, I think it’s helpful. Seeing how I thought about things, reacted to events, people, challenges, successes, etc is helpful for me to compare and contrast where I am today. It’s easy for me to think that everything is different in my life now. While , it’s in some ways true, in many others, the same themes are still present and powerful. Events change, but the themes have been constant. Without my record, it’s easy for me to remember that past very differently.
As I think about the Wired article’s conclusions: that memory is strengthened by how we treat, record, and revisit it, I wonder how memory is changing. With our Facebook status updates, blogs, and Tweets, millions of us are constantly sharing details of our lives. Will this act of recording, sharing, and commenting on our lives enable us to remember better? Whereas previously, we had to live in the moment, today, we constantly stop and “document.”
Then again, if all of our social posts contain little substantive contemplation of our lives, it’s doubtful any of it will be very useful 🙂