For years, from the age of 13, I kept a diary. Maybe because I was well into history at school (notice how I try to word it as if it’s a cool thing to be a fusty history nerd), I was always obsessed with documenting everything, keeping photos neatly organised and captioned in my photo albums, hanging on to old tickets and keeping track of what books I’d read. Yes, I was a list keeping, photo filing, diary keeping loser of the highest order.
Then, just as my life started to actually get interesting, I thought “screw this” and promptly stopped. There were far more exciting things to do than write down everything I’d done – as they say, only good girls keep a diary. But somewhere along the line, something weird happened. The rest of the world turned into diarists, obsessively documenting every. single. last. thing they did.
Maybe it was the release of finally deciding just to quit with the diary writing that freed me, but I just couldn’t get my act together to do half the things that were expected of me. And because of that, I now have a slew of half-arsed blogs littering the internet like unwanted drivel containers. My Flickr account is sadly neglected, my moblog gets updates that are irregular at best, and my MySpace profile lies fallow and untended.
All those people who cried “nerd” when they saw me sticking in another set of photo corners and taking my Sharpie to yet another photo album were suddenly creating enormous online photo albums, all tagged, categorised and commented upon.
I’m not quite sure at what stage everyone turned into obsessive-compulsive cataloguers, but I can’t help but be a little bit bemused. My memory hoarding was caused by two things: a fear of getting old and forgetting stuff (what can I say, I was a morbid teenager) and a mistaken belief that what I was recording would one day be historically relevant (“how it was for a teenager at the edge of the 20th century”, that kind of thing – like Anne Frank but with more whining about mum not letting me go to Glastonbury). And, of course, there was the instant nostalgia.
Much of my time was spent documenting the fun I was having – making sure I had lots of photos, writing it all up in my diary – but a whole load more of it was spent looking back through the photos and diary entries, showing things to friends and generally wandering down the memory lane that had only recently been memory-tarmacked.
And while I’ve become lazy in my advancing years (so what if I lose my memory – how will I remember that I have?), I’m glad to see that the rest of the world has become as sad as I was. The whole “experiencing things” thing is over-rated: so what if you spent the entire time at a music gig watching it through your camera’s preview screen – you get to enjoy the whole thing again when you get home! And who cares if you spent the whole time at a party updating your Twitter page and uploading photos to your moblog? At least you have a record of it all, godammit!
It doesn’t take an idiot (that’s me) to point out that we’ve all become obsessed by nostalgia in the past 10 years or so. TV channels have created a whole new genre of list programmes and retro-gazing shows that allow us to wallow in our memories of the 80s. Maybe it’s something to do with the turn of the century, or maybe it’s just that the geeks are taking over the universe, but either way when the aliens come to learn about this strange, extinct species of ape-like creatures, they’ll have plenty of crap to read. Assuming the last person to leave this life doesn’t switch off the internet, of course.