Nabokov, in Speak, Memory: The act of vividly recalling a patch of the past is something that I seem to have been performing with the utmost zest all my life, and I have reason to believe that this almost pathological keenness of the retrospective faculty is a hereditary trait.
Today I woke up panicked because my phone kept shutting off. The chain of events, as far as I remember: it got wet in the shower Friday night, then Saturday the front camera was fucked up but I had hope that it would dry and recover, and Sunday morning it became clear that I needed to get a new phone. Let me reconstruct my panic:
Me: “My phone is dying. It keeps randomly turning off. I’m freaking out.”
S: “Do you have Applecare? Just go to the store.”
Me: “But what if my phone dies and never turns on again before I make it to the store?”
S: “Don’t you have an iCloud backup?”
Me: “Yes, but will every single text be preserved? And what about messages on Signal and Whatsapp?”
S: “I mean, do you care if you lose a few messages?”
I wanted to cry, but instead I made a Genius Bar appointment. The truth is that I would like to keep every single message that I’ve ever sent forever. I don’t know how common of a preference this is. S’ reasoning for why he doesn’t care is that he never goes back and looks at the messages anyway (I would argue that that isn’t the point). Other friends are like, well I don’t want my messages to be potentially pulled up in court, which, fair point. N said that he wished his messages were more ephemeral—he mostly uses Messenger and it kind of freaks him out that more than a decade of messages are just sitting there.
But for me, deleting messages between me and someone I care about is like willingly undergoing a lobotomy.
How I think about it: I have my physical (“real,” some would say) life and the memories stored in my brain, and I’ll keep those for as long as I possess my health and my memory. And then I have my digital life, which is advertised as lasting forever (“Once it’s on the Internet, it never disappears”: untrue), but can actually be pretty frail.
My digital life is important to me. Maybe not as important as my physical life, but still crucial. I will not be relinquishing it unless I am forced to.