Documenting Life: Dangers of a Digital Age

While I was listening to my sister talk at my mom’s funeral about all of the things my mother had saved through the years, it made me sad. Of course, I was sad about the loss of my mother, but I was feeling a bigger loss. It is entirely possible that my generation is the last to know what it is like to find a treasure trove of documents our parents have saved. There were old photos, letters from camps and trips, programs from theater productions, the occasional newspaper article and a stack of old report cards.

So much of our communication is fleeting and digital these days. People pull out phones to share photos, but there is nothing left behind. We send emails to communicate or messages on social media, and they disappear. My kids’ report cards are electronic. They are gone at the end of the year. I did not think about it until yesterday. As the minister so astutely observed, my mother’s desk documented full lives – the ordinary and the exceptional moments. We can revisit my mother’s life and ours as well. There is a bond that defies understanding in that documentation.

Maybe it is the history teacher in me that reacted so strongly. Maybe it is the mother in me that worries about my children in the future. Either way, I will ignore pleas to save paper and not print. I will print the report cards, get pictures printed, keep the scraps of paper. I owe it to my kids to go a little old school here.


One thought on “Documenting Life: Dangers of a Digital Age

  1. Your story reminds me of a news piece I heard during the 2008 Presidential campaign. A reporter was following around (then candidate) Hillary Clinton. The reporter gave us a picture of what she got accomplished in the span of 15-20 minutes: Read a new proposal, then dashed off a response with corrections; previewed a press release, forwarded it to someone else with comments;etc. The reported thought about all the details of the campaign that essentially went up in (digital) smoke, as any record of what she did was contained in these emails. He started thinking about if the concept of a presidential library would even be possible in a few more campaigns. Where would all the letters be? What about all the handwritten notes, diaries, etc that are such rich sources for those craving to get the inside picture of what a President was thinking at some key moment in their life? It’s a bit scary.

    Good for you to keep hard copies. They’ll appreciate it when they get older – and I’m sure you will too.

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