Memories lost in digital translation

Ben Skipworth

According to Pluggedin, a Kodak blog, the first digital camera came around way back in 1975. I wasn’t alive then and I understand that the digital camera craze started hitting the shelves consistently toward the late ‘90s, but my earliest recollection of them is from middle school. Cameras have only gotten cheaper and more available since then, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone on UNA’s campus that doesn’t own one.

Sure, digital is easy. We can plug our cameras in, transfer stills and movies to our computers, wipe them off the camera, rinse and repeat. It’s all incredibly simple, but I feel one major thing is being lost in the translation from the time we shoot, upload to Facebook and start all over again. Somewhere, we’ve failed to make it a point to print our pictures.

This weekend I was cleaning my room (surprisingly), and I stumbled across a few photo albums that my mom allowed me to take with me when I moved out. One was from my elementary school years. There were pictures of me playing my first basketball game, dancing awkwardly with girls at our sixth grade dance and hanging out with my late paternal grandfather.

I dug a little deeper into my box of old goodies. I found the next album, one that my girlfriend Jessie had given me for Christmas during my senior year of high school. She had documented every bit of our 2007 football season. It reminded me of the incredible moments I had shared with my core group of friends from high school.

The last album saved me from that awkward moment most guys encounter at some point in their lives. Don’t act like you have no clue, dudes. There are certain movies that really hit home, and we realize there’s something bothering both our eyes at the same time. We’re not crying, it’s just really humid in the room and it’s making our eyes water. Not that I would know.

I cracked the album open to discover “kindergarten Ben” acting out the 1989 “Batman” movie. I definitely let out an audible chuckle. From then on I was riding a roller coaster of memories. I even found my old “Wishbone” journal from fourth grade. That led to a random thought about how much more awesome and easily I would have complied with going to see “Twilight” if Wishbone had adapted the novels. Anyway, I remember thinking how great it was to fully immerse myself in those memories.

How many times have I snapped pictures, uploaded them to Facebook and then wiped them off my camera? Too many to count, that’s for sure. Facebook may be incredibly popular right now, but who is to say it won’t die out exactly like Xanga or MySpace? What long lost photo albums will my children, and even grandchildren, delve into when I’m long gone? These questions have been burning a hole in my mind.

I’m not sure that I have the answer, but I think I have a slight clue as to why we don’t print pictures. We’re in college and they cost money. I’m not telling you to go snatch up your hard drive and print every picture you’ve ever taken, but I am urging you, for our posterity’s sake, to be more conscious of the way you document your most important memories.

One day, you’ll want your grandkids to have that same awkward “something is in my eye” moment, too.