Internet memories and storytelling: what do you keep?

Lynn JataniaMy middle daughter hates looking over my shoulder when I’m on my Instagram account and seeing that I have many, many unwatched “stories.”

Stories in Instagram are usually short video clips that are temporary – they exist for 24 hours and then they are gone. You can save favourite stories as ‘highlights’ that live on your profile, but for the most part they’re intended to disappear.

I rarely look at my stories because I usually don’t have time to sit and watch videos, and I always have my sound off and (Luddite mom alert!) I’m not 100% sure how to turn the sound on when I’m inside Instagram. But this worries my daughter, because these things are transitory and I could be missing out on something.

This led to an interesting conversion, at least for me, about WHY someone would want to post something as a story, instead of just on their regular feed. I’m the storyteller of my family. I take pictures – tons of pictures – and I print them out for photo books. When we go on a major vacation, I make a book with photos, memories and little stories from our trip. I blog, capturing our family legends as they happen.

I really value all that storytelling. I love looking back over photo albums or my blog and remembering small, everyday things that happened – the things that would be lost if no one wrote them down.

Here’s how fixated I am: I even capture some of my Facebook and Instagram posts when I’m putting together books of my blog posts for long-term safekeeping. I know others who use print services to create collages of their Instagram feed, or bound books from their blog posts.

So why would I want to post a memory online as an Instagram story, specifically so it can vanish?

For my daughter, it’s mostly about privacy. She’s very keen on privacy and always on high alert for anything that could come back to haunt her. She rarely posts anything personal on her social media accounts at all, and strongly prefers to do so as a story, because then she knows it will go away soon. Until she’s a celebrity who has all her posts screen captured by adoring fans the minute they go up, she’s pretty safe keeping her online persona as short-term-only.

Ironically, though – she actually IS a storyteller, too. Of all my kids, she’s the one who most values the books I’ve made of our shared life together, and she loves reading through my old blog posts. So I suggested she get a blog of her own, and she’s pretty excited about it. She loves the idea of recording little events in a fairly anonymous way (she’d use a pseudonym), but in a way that can be easily preserved and accessed from anywhere.

We’ll see if she actually does it or not, but in the meantime, I’ve been encouraging all three of my kids to flip the script a bit. Instead of worrying all the time about oversharing – maybe think a bit about what kinds of things they DO want to remember and keep on an ongoing basis. Consider printing out some photos. Consider keeping a diary, or making a photo album. Consider saving a text that made you smile or a post a friend made of the two of you together. Don’t assume you can go back forever on your social media accounts to find out where and when something happened. Make a point of keeping your own memories in a more permanent way.

There’s power in the internet to create a story of your life, and I’m afraid that their concerns over privacy mean they are letting their story disappear into the ether. We’ll see if they take any action to start preserving their online life.

What do you think – is it important to keep some memories in a more permanent way? Or is social media just ephemeral by nature, and we should let it go?


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