When I think back to the Summer of ’92, for example, I picture meandering around the town square with my best friend. The hostess at the corner cafe got used to seeing us, and would sometimes catch our attention to motion us in for free glasses of freshly-squeezed lemonade. We’d see familiar cars rolling down the street and wave at them when they passed by. We’d say hi to the owner of the clothing boutique as she swept off the entryway of her building, and gaze at the new titles on display at the used books store nextdoor. Each of these small moments is like a brush stroke on a canvass, and together they form a richly colored picture that will remain with me for the rest of my life…but I was only able to experience them because I was fully present to the world around me.
I compared that to a memory of a recent event that I attended. I had some childcare issues come up, and ended up moving to a back corner of the room so that I could send text messages to my mother and husband to get the situation worked out. I made every effort to pay attention to the event, and was genuinely interested in it, but I don’t remember it well. I had one foot in the physical world around me, and another in the virtual world inside of my phone. My memories of that summer 20 years ago are far more vivid than my memories of this event two months ago.
It says something about the ultimate hollowness of virtual activities that they’d don’t leave us with memories. With rare exceptions, nobody remembers what texts they sent last month, or the status updates they read and posted last year.