Why memories make us who we are

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Memories make us who we are

In a physical sense, we are made up of skin, flesh, blood and bones. In a more poetic and psychological sense, we are made up of memories. Memorization how we learn about the world and ourselves. Memories are powerful. They are influential in how we are shaped as individuals. For example, memories from our childhood can still affect our psyche and behavior as adults.

Thinking of happy memories can bring us temporary joy in the midst of stress, while memories of trauma can trigger the processes of a mental illness. It is the emotions contained within memories that make them feel real once again when we remember them.

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

This is a painting by French artist Paul Gauguin (see below). Painted to be read from right to left; shows our progression from birth to death, a journey of valleys and peaks, taken in collaboration with the people around us.

Our lives are constantly memorialised. From conception, birth and in the early years by our parents, and then by ourselves through our own memories.

Memories are stepping stones in the river of life, our signposts to remind us where we have come from and who walked beside us on our journey. Memories make us who we are.

Where do we come from? What are we?

Where do we come from?

In writing the stories of our lives, our earliest memories come from our parents. They tell us stories about our conception including the first scan, how they shared the news and what the first kick felt like. They show us photographs of pregnant Mum and proud Dad. They remember our first smile, our first step, our first word.

They are the custodians of our legacies.

Their memories become our first memories; the two intertwined to become our histories and identities.

Parents also tell us the stories of their parents and ancestors to help us understand where we come from and who we are. They remind us of our potential to achieve anything and be anyone. They humanise the past with stories of our ancestors written into world history. Through their memories, we become part of the global community and realise that we are all bound to each other.

What are we?

We are the sum total of our memories which are stories of our life. As we travel the many roads that make up the maps of our lives, we continue to make and store memories. We take pictures and videos; we tell and record stories; we write messages and emails and caption images. All this so our children can then read our maps, understand our stories and, in doing so, better understand themselves.

We become the custodians of our children’s legacy.

We also listen to our parents’ stories as they regale us with their memories. They lead us across the maps of their lives, reminding us that they too were young once. That they too laughed and cried, loved and lost, and that they remember. They tell us their stories with the expectation that we become the custodians of their legacies as well. Documenting their memories so that we can remind our children where they came from; that their lives started long before; in other places, in other times.

Photo Album Memories

Where are we going?

As a society, we take millions of photographs and videos each day. Today, most of us have photos and videos on our phones, on our tablets, on our computers. We have photos on hard drives, in zip drives, some we have printed out into albums. We have digital albums, digital photo frames. Some of us store photos on Facebook, Instagram and other social media. We want to share our memories with friends and family but we are never entirely sure if they are secure, private, protected on these sites.

Often, we look at old photos and we struggle to remember the context, the people. Where were we? Who was with us? What were we feeling? Thinking?

If only I had all my photographs centralised. If only I’d asked Mum or Dad who the people in the photos were. If only I’d written a note to remind myself of the context of the photos. If only I were certain that the photos I'm sharing online are secure. If only I could streamline and caption my memories.

The Importance of Preserving Memories

Today, we have become a photo and video-obsessed society. Think about all of the popular social media and blog sites today. Almost all of them have visual media as prominent features. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are essentially scrapbooks filled with multimedia memories.

Memories are stored in our brain, but the digital versions of our memories can be stored in computers and on the internet. Think of hard drives, flash drives, and cloud databases like Google Drive as brains. They are memory vaults where we can store photos, videos, audio, and text documents, amongst other types of media.

Many people today use social media sites as repositories. For example, one of the many reasons why Facebook is popular in developing countries is because you can access it using cheap smartphones. In a country where laptops and desktops are costly, a Facebook user can just store their data into the site. Unfortunately, this has also led to numerous cases of hacking and identity theft. Social media platforms like Facebook have battled controversy over data privacy since it first launched.

The preservation of memories becomes even more important when it’s the memories of a loved one you’re entrusted to immortalize. This is why online memorials have grown in popularity over the past decade.

Online memorials subtract the Wild West factor of social media, but integrates social media’s positive attributes such as ease of publishing and being able to accommodate various media. An online memorial platform is also a much more secure and stable host for preserving the memories of loved ones.

The Importance of Sharing Memories

From an individual’s perspective, we call moments from our past memories. From a collective or social standpoint, we call memories “history.” Our civilization is essentially composed of layers of collective memories on top of the other. That is why learning about history is important. That is why we have history books, academic courses, museums, and preservation societies.

Likewise, it is important to share the memories, or personal histories, of our loved ones. Of course, as custodians of their legacies, it is up to us what should be shared and what should be kept private out of respect for them. However, overall, it is essential to pass on the memories of our loved ones to the next generation. Sharing memories is like teaching history.

The importance of sharing memories is another reason why online memorials have grown in popularity. They allow us to easily present the beautiful moments in our loved one’s life through photographs, videos, audio, and blog post-style anecdotes about their lives. The online memorial becomes not just a sacred digital space for remembering someone’s life, it also becomes a storybook containing the perspective of one member in a family tree.

A centralised solution to creating and storing Memories

Australian based start up Memories is transforming how we capture and store memories. Memories is an app that will help people memorialise their life story, capturing key memories from their lives which they can celebrate with their older loved ones and pass on to future generations.

Memories will enable people to centralise and caption all their documented memories, connecting families, as people come together to create their life stories. Memories will mean spending time with parents and grandparents as they remind us and themselves of their younger days, and our early histories. Memories will mean creating a beautiful map of all the lives that have come before for our children, telling them the story of their history and passing on to them the custodianship of the legacy of their families.