Does digital media disconnect us from the past?

As human being, we tend to live in the future. What am I going to have for dinner? What will I say in my next meeting? Where should we go on our next vacation? Rarely do we take the time to open up those old dusty photo albums and reminisce about the past. The times that we do can truly be powerful and bring back a flood of emotions. But there is something special about doing so with something physical  and tangible such as a photo album, souvenir, or gift.  It is often more special when you can share that with a friend of family member. The past makes us appreciate the moment and be grateful for the things we have.

Family Album

So why is the past important? As Stuart Mclean, a famous Canadian radio broadcaster, author and storyteller, puts it in one of his Vinyl Cafe stories, Niagra Falls (which I highly recommend a listen)

Sometimes however, when we are lucky, we feel we get to reach out and touch yesterdays both near and far. When we’re very lucky we feel the human connection with those that were hear before us. That’s why we read books, that’s why we study history and listen to recordings of years gone by…

Only very occasionally and only by surprise does the past tip toe behind you and whisper in your ear,  and remind you that we are not alone and there were others before us who laughed and loved too. And when this happens we should stop and salute the ghosts of our past and acknowledge even if it’s with a shrug, the grinding passage of time.

So this brings me to my question. With the development of podcasts, blogs, ipads and online photo albums, do we run the risk of sacrificing a disconnect with the past since we lose that physical and somewhat more permanent component? Of course, blog posts are supposedly saved somewhere in cyberspace and Flickr promises not to delete photos. But having all our memories and connections saved in gigabytes and fiber optic cables seems a tad disconcerting to me. What will the future look like for family get togethers? Having everyone gather around an ipad and view a family wedding as tears of nostalgia stream down. Or will even be in the same physical space? Will we be subjected to merely sharing comments via Facebook such as “LOL, Mom remember when u burnt that birthday cake 🙂 ROFL “?  Time will only tell I suppose…

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3 thoughts on “Does digital media disconnect us from the past?

  1. I read similar a few years ago in direct relation to genealogy work – the lament was that no longer will you find a box of old photos or letters in the attic, or grandma’s diary in the floorboards, or old newspapers in the walls of old houses, or journals and bank transactions etc etc – that we are wiping our past with online journals that are password protected, twittering or facebooking our life away instead of writing it with pen and paper in a journal. Skyping is easier than writing letters.

    The future generations will not be able to know us. And, even though digital technology allows us to do so many things including preserving and accessing information, formats change and unless you change with it by changing all your old files – you may be left with many files of important history that simply cannot be accessed because the format is too old.

    Not sure of the answer – or what we can do about it.

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  2. Excellent point Dianne. I wonder the same thing. Perhaps we need to find a balance between the old and new. Right now, social trends indicate that we are completely into the new.

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