Memories


While skimming an otherwise forgettable article by Chuck Klosterman, I came to a full stop when I saw this sentence: "The proliferation of media means we don't get to decide what we remember." It captured my attention, and here's why it should capture yours too.

Science still doesn't understand a lot about how long-term memories are formed, but we know this much: Reinforcement is key. If we think about or talk about an experience often, the connections in our brain get strengthened, and it's much easier to call up that information at a later date. In practice, this works quite well, as it helps us remember important things, like which foods make us sick or even our phone number, while mundane details like trips to the grocery store fade away over time.

In an age of of constant and immersive media, though, we're no longer the ones setting the agenda. I could give a rat's ass about Michael Jackson's death or the Casey Anthony trial, but it's nearly impossible to avoid hearing about these stories over and over. Invariably, through reinforcement, the details start to stick.

Who decided to put those memories there? More likely than not, it was a news director looking for ratings. So without any conscious effort on my part, and entirely without my consent, memories of these things are forever burned into my mind.

It's humbling and a little scary to realize that the thing we hold most sacrosanct, our own thoughts, are perhaps not our own.

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