Every now and then, something pops up that reminds me that in the digital era, things are now very different. Without a doubt, we all carry with us certain memories. But memories of the vivid kind have long been a purview of famous people (through museums, monuments, tributes and the like) or of dreams and recollections….
I remember a few years after my grandmother passed away having a thought flash through my mind that when I next visit her I would share a particular story with her… and then I realized that I would not be able to do that anymore. I shared this with my father and he said that occasionally happens to him as well… I’m sure it happens to all of us..
But the digital world is different. What happens when someone dies? Do you delete their entry from you e-address book or your email client? I’ve had to deal with this a couple of times now and both times I have felt it would be a sort of betrayal to the deceased friends’ memory to do that… then I included the email of a deceased friend on a group mail by accident and it sparked some painful memories on the part of others …. So I deleted it finally.
Smartphones pose a similar risk. They are not so smart that they automatically update themselves… and again, what do you do? As with emails, I have kept certain contacts because it felt too final to remove them… And I think this is different from “do I keep those letters from my friend who has passed?” I dont think anyone “deletes” letters and cards from deceased friends – they get put away in a memento box – out of sight… but somehow still preserved. You cant do that with address books and contact lists…. there is no memento box…. (at least not that I am aware of ….)
Today I was going through my twitter links and came across @jacklayton. The account is still there. Last entry is for August 22. The FB still exists as well. This is no different that a public tribute, but the quirkiness of social media adds poignancy.
The penultimate entry on Jack Layton’s page reads “Jack Layton changed their ‘About” presumably to now use the past tense: “Jack Layton was Leader of Canada’s NDP.”