- In today's digital age, we are witnessing a monumental increase in "memory hoarding."
- We document everything through selfies and photos of our friends, our travel, and even our food.
- All this focus on memory hoarding is affecting our ability to be in the “now”.
- Memory hoarders rely on hindsight for their nostalgic pleasure of past experiences.
Hoarding is an ongoing inability to discard possessions due to the idea you might need them in the future. Memory hoarding, as defined by the DSM-5, is an OCD ritual whereby the individual over-attends to memories because they may be needed in the future.
In today's digital age, we are witnessing a monumental increase in memory hoarding. Why else would we be taking multiple selfies of ourselves, our friends, our travel, our accommodation, and even our food?
Is the digital age becoming the basic platform contributing to a new generation of memory hoarders? And, what is happening to the “now” when everything is being experienced for tomorrow’s reminiscing?
Selfies and Narcissism
Obviously, not all selfies are harmful. Some may be inspired by feeling confident and self-assured. However, not unlike body dysmorphia, some individuals become fixated on so-called personal flaws because of selfies.
There is also research to support that grandiose exhibitionism, a form of narcissism, is linked to solo selfies in particular. Excessive posting of selfies appears to also be associated with increased narcissism. How many selfies do I need with the same outfit, with the same people, and in the same place?
Maybe there is a need to get the best possible selfie. Does that mean the unwanted selfies are discarded? Or are they digitally stored anyway? Could this compulsive storage issue be memory hoarding?
Google estimated that 24 billion selfies were uploaded to Google Photos in 2015. That number is presumably much larger now, eight years later. There may not be any harm in this, however, one report says there were 259 known deaths due to dangerous selfies, which occurred in 137 incidents (Time, 2018).
Checking Social Media
The compulsive checking of social media is another outlet for memory hoarding. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is particularly pronounced among Instagram users, and is an emotional response to the belief that other people are living better, more satisfying lives or that important opportunities are being missed. FOMO often leads to feelings of unease, dissatisfaction, depression, and stress.
Maybe what we need is JOMO, the joy of missing out.
What is Happening to the “Now”?
All this focus on memory hoarding is affecting our ability to be in the “now”. The present is not on our radar when we are archiving while in it. To be present requires more than a smartphone and all our apps.
Being present is really all we have. The past is over and the future is not guaranteed. Memory hoarding takes us away from the present. Archiving pictures of our life experience have become the proof of our existence.
We document that we had pizza with anchovies at Luigi’s in Naples. But did we experience all the nuances of being in that place and time? Or, did we just archive it for future reference to share with someone else who may also need to share their memory-hoarded experiences? An experience needs to be, by definition, more than a memory.
We know that hindsight is not very accurate. The refutation of eye-witness testimony is just one example of the hit-and-miss reliability of our hindsight. Psychologists as expert witnesses have demonstrated for years that hindsight bias negates reliable testimony in the courts.
Memory hoarders rely on hindsight for their nostalgic pleasure of past experiences. It seems to be a very unreliable basket to put all your life’s most memorable moments into.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) has been utilized to resist the compulsion of memory hoarding. The goal is to limit over-attending to specific details over time, which permeates memory hoarding. The self-discipline to refrain from taking videos, photos, or notes compulsively is a major part of the success of this therapy.
Google Photos: One year, 200 million users, and a whole lot of selfies. Google. 2016.
Selfie-related deaths on the rise | Time. Jan 28, 2018