Digital vs. tangible memories. Experts weigh in on how teenagers preserve their memories in the digital age

The past decade has had an incredible impact on the way we communicate, especially over the last few years. The digital revolution is transforming the way teenagers remember and what they forget. With our phones being an extension of our bodies, it’s not rare that recording special moments becomes more important that actually enjoying them.

Technology has big benefits like supporting our learning process and boosting self-confidence, but overusing it could affect how we create and retain memories. 

As we increasingly embrace digitalisation in all aspects of our lives, memory and the way we remember, especially youngsters, are sparking a debate: is there still value in keeping tangible memories? While technology is giving us unlimited opportunities for storage, tactile objects like memory boxes are still acknowledged as a nostalgic way to look into the past.

To shed light on this question, Rajapack UK has partnered with a Research Professor specialising in memory studies, a Clinical Psychologist, and a Therapist, revealing recent studies on the way we remember in the Digital Era and the role tangible memories play for those who were born with a tablet in their hands. The study also looks into different peoples’ stories and why they keep memory boxes, in order to understand their importance.

Tangible memories

Tactile memories offer a strong connection to the past, allowing us to access all our five senses and triggering vibrant and vivid memories in the process. Therapist Lorna Cordell references new research from Horniman Museum London. In a recent study, people who were allowed to hold objects from the museum felt a stronger connection to them than those who only viewed them.

“The difference in experience was clear, with all those who could hold an object happy that they could do so and all those who could view the object only, wished they had been able to hold it” Lorna Cordell.

Experts collaborating on our study agree that tangible memories have a benefit on intergenerational relationships. “It’s almost like giving a tradition to the younger generation”, states Dr. Tony Ortega, while research professor Andrew Hoskins highlights the strong significance of objects from our past: “Despite the decay and wear and tear of photographs, letters, and other objects that are reminders of people and past experiences, their keeping is like holding on to those people and experiences”.

Digital memories

New memory studies from this year reveal that we are seeing a radical transformation in the way teens remember and the things we forget.

Based on research from his latest book ‘Digital Memory Studies’, professor Andrew Hoskins gives us exclusive insights:

  • Technology has re-engineered memory, with digital opening up more avenues for us to store and access our memories, which in his view “both imprisons and liberates active human remembering and forgetting”.
  • The digital revolution has paved the way for the immediacy of instant search and given us instant access to our past “Overnight, digital media resurrected the faded and decaying past of old school friends, former lovers, and all that could and should have been forgotten.”
  • Technology plays a crucial part in the process of making memories: “We are no longer just reliant on media for memory but are now dependent on it.”
  • “The act of recording has become more urgent than seeing that which is being recorded.” Smartphone technology has created a compulsion to record and filter all aspects of our everyday lives: “The present is literally being screened out by the digital as the default way of seeing the world… The unrecorded areas of our lives are shrinking fast.”
  • We have lost control over forgetting: “We do not have any certainty over how long anything posted or sent via social media will last, who will have access to it and when, nor who actually owns the message or photograph or video sent or stored via digital networks and platforms.”

Technology has undeniable benefits to our lives, however, when it comes to building memories, tangible objects can be more helpful as they immerse you in the moment, allowing you to really re-live important moments from your teenage years.

You can find more information on our research as well as an insight into unique memory boxes here.

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