Although it would’ve been hard for me to believe at the start of the process of reading and reviewing this book, the concepts explained in the book, especially about the consequences of remembering in the modern technological age have actually led me to thinking about social media in a new dimension, which has been really interesting.

Firstly, the first half of the book mainly outlines the consequences of posting and the flaws of the systems we use today to remembering information. The author did this by using specific real life stories, and explaining comprehensively the history of humans’ journey to absolute memory. Personally, I found this part of the book the most enjoyable, as it had links to other areas of knowledge and was insightful in that it was interesting to find out and think more about how far the human race has come in terms of remembering and forgetting, and the eventual imbalance between the two that we’ve reached.

Ironically, the links to other areas of knowledge aspect of this section was as enjoyable as it was because it barely focused on what we’d think of as modern technology. But after more pondering, you come to realise that the methods of remembering that humans had developed at the time- such as language, writing, libraries- that the author describes, were all considered modern at their time. Manuscripts were modern technology, and that was something I found really interesting to think about. Being born into a day and age with technology surrounding us all constantly, and experiencing the rise of apple technology for example, I think made me too comfortable with it in a way. Though of course, the me before reading this book would’ve just said to this “you don’t need to think about these things- isn’t it more beneficial to think in the present anyway? You didn’t quit studying history for nothing”, and I think there’s still a part of me now that still thinks this way. Though, I’d say that this is a fairly natural part of who I am and my personality: I don’t like to dwell too much on the past, because there’s nothing I can do about it now. In any case, I actually do think that it’s good to have a bit of reality check from this book, and realise that things I take for granted, those ancient modern technologies, are still alive today because of the human desire to remember.

I also found it interesting to think about the other side of the argument; that remembering isn’t always a good thing. I myself have fairly bad memory these days, I’d say, so given the choice between forgetting and remembering, I would’ve chosen to remember. However, this book has also pointed out that there is no “forgetting vs remembering” argument, because the whole issue with it in the first place is that it’s perceived as binary. It’s either this, or that. But in actual fact, there’s a scale between the two in which they’re both the extreme ends. This notion was fascinating to me, simply because I never really thought about it before, and ironically, there’s not really a word in the english language to describe the “in between” of this scale; as if english was always set to inscribe in its users that there was no in between.

Secondly, why this book led me to thinking about social media differently. Like most other people my age, I’d say I only go on my phone for social media and communication purposes- I think I’m one of the rare few with no games on my phone. Naturally, this results in my generation, in general, being quite active on social media relative to other generations. You could say we’re the digital native generation.

This morning (at the time of writing) Twitter added their new “fleets” option to my timeline and Instagram added their “shopping” tab. It appeared that my friends also experienced these new features, and considering that these social media platforms are supposed to be targetted to us and our usage, none of them particularly like these features.

Fleeting thoughts

Twitter Fleets: Stories-Like Feature Launches Worldwide - Variety

The new Twitter Fleets option is, from my perspective, essentially the same as Instagram stories or whatever you do on Snapchat (I wouldn’t exactly know about Snapchat because I don’t use it). It’s a simple “stories” function in that you click on our icon, type a small piece of text, share a link, attach an image, and it will be sent to your followers and “disappear” after a day. Even the circle appearance of these Fleets are virtually a replica of the feature on Stories function on Instagram. I think the only part of the feature that Twitter didn’t exactly copy from them is the filters options on camera, and they added a easy link sharing function (which I’m still very confused as to why Instagram hasn’t done).

When I first saw that this feature was actually going to be implemented into my most used social media app two days ago (some time after finishing reading this book), my first reaction was “that’s a really ironic name”. And even more ironically, when you load into the “add fleet” page, the default text Twitter displays is “Share a fleeting thought”. This very obviously encourages people to post whatever is on their mind at that present moment, without regard for the impact it could have in the future and with the supposed notion that it will be deleted in 24 hours; something that the author very clearly warns against from the beginning.

Moreover, now that I’ve read this book, I’ve realised that in general these story functions that most social media sites are now implementing are contributing to the disadvantages of remembering, more than the advantages. First of all, a 24 hour window is more than enough time for people to possibly screenshot what you posted, not to mention that the book has also alluded to “internet archives” in which such data could be stored in; saying that whatever is shared online, whether it stays or is deleted, will exist somewhere for virtually eternally (pun unintended). Secondly, this particular example has the knock on effect of decreasing attention spans even more, as even though I don’t think fleets have a character or word limit, there’s still definitely finite space for you to write texts to post, as well as the default option on it being the “post image” function- not to mention that out of the 3 other functions provided, 2 are related to posting something visual. This will inevitably make people subconsciously more reliant on visuals than ever. The main advantages of remembering that the author acknowledged were for large scale things such as medical records or statistics to be used by the government, which is the exact opposite of things that are designed to be posted with Stories.

More on digital natives

As mentioned before, I’d say I’m a a part of a digital native generation. And these reviews, have been about a book, which I read in hard cover format. So one may ask, which one would have been better; watching a video or documentary on the same topic, or reading the book?

In short, my answer is honestly both. Before I fully dove into the book- around after I finished the first chapter- I listened to a video of the author openly discussing the themes and ideas presented in the book as a whole. This video was about half an hour, and didn’t require nearly as much attention to absorb what was being said, despite having no visual aiding. After this, I then proceeded to read the rest of the book.

I myself, read more hardcopy and softcopy books over quarantine than I had in the past 3 years, albeit I had just finished my GCSEs and there was nothing in particular to study or prepare for IB. Not to speak to much about myself, but this period certainly impacted my perception of reading books, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. So before quarantine, if you had asked me to read and review this book, I probably wouldn’t have liked the process as much as I do now. Having said this, of course listening to the video would be more convenient for me, but since I listened to it after I’d already gotten a taster of what the book was about, I found it quite beneficial as it provided an overview of what was to come, in a nutshell. Alone, it wouldn’t have been as thorough and since the words were coming directly from the author’s mouth without probably months of editing, whilst this provides a more raw and unfiltered perspective (which could possibly be interpreted as more opinionated because there’s an added dimension of vocal tone and intonation in audio), the book itself was obviously extended and expressed in an order that makes sense.

To forget or to remember (this book)?

Delete | Princeton University Press

Overall, this book presented different perspectives and opinions on digital remembering in a way that was easy to understand due to the natural progression of chapters and frequent use of sections within chapters. It was also strangely engaging in that it wasn’t particularly a topic that I’m interested in, but I found it easy to read, process and understand what the author was trying to say.

It’s safe to say that the expiration date for remembering this book for me, is in the far future.

 

Sources:

Twitter fleets: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/nov/18/fleets-twitter-launches-disappearing-tweets-tool-worldwide

Open discussion of the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4SyIWLyuog

 

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