This afternoon, I was sitting on the couch with some of my sorority sisters looking through old scrapbooks girls had made in the past. The scrapbooks had pictures of cocktail parties, bid days, mixers with fraternities, service events, and any other sorority function you could imagine. We all sat for an hour looking through the scrapbooks and realized the most recent book looked like it was from the early 2000’s.
We all wondered the same thing: “Why don’t we make these anymore?”
My first thought was that we don’t value sentiment as much as the generation before us did. It was obvious in the pages of the scrapbooks that these girls treasured the memories they made with each other at each event – enough to make an entire scrapbook about it. But the truth is, we no longer feel the need to put work into things like photo albums and scrapbooks because we know we can easily store the even more images on Facebook or on our phones. The sentimentality isn’t gone, just expressed in a different way.
I was pleased to find out that the reading we were assigned in my Current Issues in Mass Media class happened to expand on this. In an article in The Atlantic, Chau Tu writes about technologies we use today to store memories and how our brains process memories differently because of this. Tu discussed research that showed the more we photograph events (or Tweet about them, etc.) the less we actually store in our memory because we are “outsourcing” the memory instead.
I agree with this, and the way we store these memories now increases the amount of outsourcing we do.
Back in 1998 when the girls in Zeta Tau Alpha were making their photo albums of events, they were most likely gluing all 30 of the pictures they took at the event onto the pages of the book. These pictures were probably taken by different people, with a camera, and not run through filters or posted to Instagram/Snapchat throughout the night.
Now, the way we store these memories is completely different. At a service event, for example, every girl would have her phone out taking pictures every few minutes. Not only would most of us take pictures, but we would also spend a few minutes each posting them on social media. We would actively update our Snapchat stories too, and by the end of the event, the entire day could be pieced together by scrolling through our feeds.
According to the research in Tu’s article, we would be outsourcing all of the memories we made that day. Chances are, weeks later, we would remember fewer specific moments of this day than if we had put the phones down and simply enjoyed the experience.