Is Our Memory Going Extinct, Too?

Does finding out something—again—years after it happened help or hurt us?

This meme about the Western Black Rhino being extinct is currently being passed around Facebook.

People are aghast and deriding humanity.


As they should be. If we don’t learn now, blundering around with our great big brains full of thought and purpose, when are we going to?

But here’s an interesting thing. Even though I saw this on a friend’s Wall today, the source it came from posted it in January.

A simple Google search found that this rhino has been extinct since 2011, with Probable Extinction designated in 2006.

So this isn’t new. It’s still just as important and devastating. But it isn’t a new thing to be shocked about. The shock should have reverberated and helped us become better people when it happened.

And it could very well have done that; even a small stride forward is better than none.

But what does this say about our memory, or our retention, or even our paying attention?

One of the things I applaud about social media is how it opens up the lines of communication. We get to hear different points of view from our own. We get to absorb knowledge at seemingly our own pace–I’ll get to that in a bit.

We also get to meet people we may never have had a chance of meeting, all through these various online mediums that keep the conversation going even if it’s between two screens.

But what are we missing?

Perhaps this flood of knowledge coming at us has little to do with allowing us our own pace and more to do with a giant brain-dump that our own brains can’t handle.

So we miss things. We forget things.

You’ve seen it before if you’ve spent any time on Facebook, the “Oh my god! This musician died!” type of posts, and you’ll get equally shocked comments until one person says that this happened in 2002.

Of course, there is always the fact that if this is the first time you’re seeing news of whatever it is, then it is indeed new to you.

And that even if information is being passed around again and back in our consciousness, perhaps that is for the greater good too. Perhaps this regurgitated news of this poor rhino species, this same outrage, this same sorrow, will help save another species from the same fate.

#Scintilla Day 3: What’s in a (dream) memory?

Prompt: Talk about a memory triggered by a particular song.

This is more a dream mixed in with a misremembered memory, imagery built up over time.

I’d only seen Sade’s “The Sweetest Taboo” video once or twice when it first came out. I’d heard the song on the radio far more and still remember how it sounded, played back on the rickety old cassette tape I’d so treasured, having lain in wait for the DJ to play it, finally.

Over the years, the remnants of the video had filtered through my mind, and one night during a wild, beautiful storm, I dreamed…

The music starts with the rain, my band playing in the living room, set up against one long wall. From inside I can see the rain pouring off the porch roof and streaming down to the grass, rained-green bushes and trees in the background. And one could be daring and go out on the porch with someone, faded cushions on old wicker furniture, or stay inside, lying just below the wide-paned windows on the couch, tendrils of the rain-scented breeze coming in. And all the while the music is playing.

I’m not sure how much of me was Sade and how much was watching her at the same time; that’s one of the cool things about dreams, that curious double-sight.

I’d held on to that dream and the feelings in the dream all this while, never really needing to see the video before my eyeballs again. Then YouTube was invented with everything you could possibly want to see, ever.

So I found that video and eagerly pressed play–and discovered I’d been misremembering all this time!

Yet somehow, it really doesn’t matter.

Will Facebook Help Us Save Our Memories?

It seems as though every millisecond, we’re feverishly capturing our lives. You have only to look at Facebook to see photo after photo of our most cherished, cute or funny moments, stuffing albums full to their limit. Digital cameras and friendly social interfaces make a marvelous pair.

Sure, some of it is of the “Look at me!” type as we experiment with flattering angles and lighting (and Photoshop), and depending on how long-suffering our friends are, we’re vindicated with “likes” and equally flattering comments that keep us uploading more and more. Who doesn’t want their glory years to be caught in digital celluloid?

What’s this got to do with memories? Find out…