DELETE - Part 2: Erasing my Past?

February 01, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1. Part 3

By Guinevere McWhorter

Now that I've identified those sinful parts of my online nature (ego, anger, validation), I must deal with the memories. The photos are seemingly innocuous. This is where I realize that Facebook was a tool; one that has outrun its usefulness, not unlike a film camera or an overhead projector. It’s time to move on. And so, I moved on and downloaded all of my Facebook photos.

But first, it seemed a good idea to look at the photos before I deleted them. I remember the innocuous, innocent days of Facebook. One of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, was right when he said, “Nothing gold can stay.” Gold is often interpreted as innocence. I was living abroad when I first opened my Facebook account. Opening one was a rite of passage somewhere in the brave first few years of our tech overlordship. (At the time, they were benevolent monarchs. “Here, I’ve given you this little container for your memories.” I acknowledge the utility of this tool.)

Screenshot
With the proud emotional toolkit of a middle-schooler, I looked at photos. But then, a new foe crept in. Memory. Memories wrapped up in photos and albums and comments. That scanned, uploaded photo. There I sit with my sister, perched upon my grandfather’s lap, sometime in 1985. Or, that trip to the desert, astride a camel. I was abroad and I portrayed the exotic. That got many likes. But it was the memory of that cloudless Sahara night and the blinking stars that captured my heart again. Or it was that snowy family Christmas photo. We were all smiling, some clutched snowballs. It was the last one all together before Papa died.

I began to question my resolve. Perhaps I’d need to see a therapist. Much of our identity becomes wrapped up in memory. What we once were and what we hope to become is all intertwined with memories. Doubts swirled. Was I erasing my past and my future? “No Gwen. They’re all saved on a file and in the cloud and you printed an album for your mom for Christmas.”

OK. I kept deleting. Soon, a certain weight lifted. I let the memories linger and I carried on. Some of my photos embodied that unique form of social media attention grabbing. This is a sin as old as Eve. “I’m important! My experience is better than yours.” Just like Eve, we are insecure. And then I found an interesting album. It’s the album of unresolved conflict. It was a birthday party with an old friend and shortly after, bridges were burned, and the friendship was piled on the ash heaps of history. The voice said: “Just hold on to this one album!” either to feed my rage or my grief.

It went on like this, and one by one I deleted albums and watched the flames engulf the memories.

 


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