Life on Tapp: Are digital devices depriving us of wonderful memories?
Blaise Tapp writes: I’ve been doing that a lot recently – bereavement tends to have that effect and it is perfectly fine and normal even, as long as one doesn’t become too maudlin.
If I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that memories, especially the happy ones, can sustain you through the toughest of times. Over the past two months or so I’ve rediscovered the joy of revisiting long forgotten memories through the medium of the old fashioned photograph.
In the digital age, where billions of images are stored away in social media galleries or uploaded onto any number of clouds, it’s easy to forget about the genuine pleasure that you get from picking up a hard copy of a photograph that was taken decades ago.
I’ve re-remembered distant holidays and obscure relatives who were captured forever, long ago on a camera that would now belong in a museum – if such an institution that celebrated the most mundane and banal elements of the 1970s and ‘80s actually existed. These days, we can edit our pictures the second we take them and even hacks like me really have to work hard to screw up a photo opportunity, given that smartphones today are, largely speaking, idiot proof.
Back then, however, the definition of instant was either a Polaroid, which very few people who weren’t American had, or paying a couple of quid extra to get same day film development. Flicking through mountains of individual photos and albums recently has served as a reminder of how much pot luck was involved in taking a photograph in the 20th century. I’ve discovered scores of images where people are looking the wrong way, have their eyes shut or are almost unidentifiable due to lighting issues.
In many ways, this makes the picture more real because many of them were taken blind, meaning that, more often than not, unless an image was especially awful, it went into the album and was destined to become a family memory. What’s noticeable from looking at old albums is the lack of pouting or, mercifully, selfies, which is something that makes them all the more brilliant.
In the days of film, subjects of photographs didn’t have the ability to sanction which images could be kept or discarded – the first opportunity they had when the prints came back from Boots or Snappy Snaps.
I don’t mind admitting that discovering pictures that I haven’t seen since the days I sported a Chris Waddle-style mullet – yes, really – has led me to disappear down more than one rabbit hole during a time when I am supposed to be focused on sorting through my late mum’s personal effects. At this rate, I’ll be doing it for the next 18 months because as soon as I stumble across yet another album or shoebox full of shiny prints, that’s it, the bin bag is discarded and I’m back on the floor, transported back to events and occasions which I had forgotten about decades ago.
Another thing that I’ve learned recently is the sheer amount of stuff that just one person can accrue over a lifetime and while some of it can be rubbish – such as receipts from 15 years ago or a pile of those free CDs that used to be given away in Sunday supplements – much of it carries a sentimental value, making it very difficult to throw away, even if we are talking about an old comedy pinny or silver leopard print china mug.
I’ve already got more than enough of my own clutter, without having to import any more into the home, but that hasn’t stopped me from coming back with trinkets from not just my childhood but my mum’s as well.
There seems to be a push for us to become more digital and to own less physical stuff but that would deprive us of wonderful memories.