By Allison Bonilla LCSW
Who here remembers when we used to have photo albums on the coffee table in the living room. I remember I would randomly pick them up and flip through the familiar pages and feel happy and comforted by the memories they elicited. Why happiness? Well, these pictures represented the best of times in the life of my family. They were carefully curated to show our life at its best.
I thought about that as I recently viewed memories presented to me on Facebook. I have to say I love it when they pull up pictures from many years ago, especially if the pictures are of my children or of past vacations. As I looked at the pictures I had that same sense of happiness. The pictures I posted were also curated to reflect the best of times in the life of my family. Those joyful moments, like something delicious, can be savored through these pictorial reviews.
I do however miss those coffee table picture albums. They represented quiet moments when just looking at the pictures safely encased in clear plastic would recall life events (birthdays,
weddings, or holidays). I would hold the picture up to the light to see if there was more to be
seen that I had missed in the previous viewing of that same picture. It was almost as if each
picture had something to say and I was only getting whispers of it. I wanted to know more and insisted that the picture give up its secrets through my intense scrutiny.
It was interesting to note however that the hours of flipping through these albums were more calming than viewing the memories on Facebook. Why was that so? I think that viewing
Facebook’s memory posts is usually quick and they usually come when I am not in a
contemplative mood. They pop up, they are not sought out by me. I am happy that they have presented themselves, but I am usually not ready to sit and contemplate them in any depth. My response is usually a smile and a quick acknowledgment, or perhaps I share it with someone, but then I quickly move on.
My response to the physical albums however is more contemplative. There is a savoring that
doesn’t occur with the digital post. There is the tangible holding of the album, the graininess of the photo that begs you to look closer to see what is in the background. There is the taking of a moment to recall the whole memory, not just the picture. I will frequently remember events that surround the taking of the picture. The one picture will open up another album of memories that surround it, these memories may not have been captured on film, but remain in my mind. That doesn’t appear to happen with Facebook memories. I don’t know why.
What would happen if Facebook stopped presenting us with these memories? I think I would be sad, but I don’t think I would miss it. I think I may pay more attention to building my own
memory albums. We all have or know people who have millions of photos on computer discs, jump drives or backup drives. We rarely look back at them unless we are looking for a specific picture to post.
Although coffee table albums have gone the way of the dodo, I wonder if there would be a
revival of them if we didn’t have digital memories presented to us. Would we spend more time scrolling backward on our social media accounts? Is Social Media the new memory keepers, the digital coffee table album? I hope not! We do not need one more thing that ties us to our digital devices.
What if we challenge ourselves to actually print up some of these memories? We could take the time to pick ten pictures a month, print them up, and put them in a coffee table album. This kind of activity may be familiar to those who do scrapbooking.
The contemplative aspect of this activity will be very soothing for the mind.
It will also help you to enjoy these memories in greater depth, and spur on feelings of gratitude.
You may even experience a feeling of grounding, being present, even as you look at the pleasant past away from the digital world.
Yes, there are unpleasant memories in everyone’s life. But when we strengthen the memories of the pleasant, we do ourselves a favor by lessening our stress and inviting gratitude for the good times. Even in the worse life, there are also some moments of joy and happiness, why not take some time to think about them.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. -Philippians 4:8
About the Author:
Allison Bonilla is a Professional Life Strategist, Psychotherapist, Writer, Bible Study Leader, Speaker, and Consultant. A Christian Counselor in private practice for over 25 years, she along with her husband of 36 yrs raised 5 children. Through their non-profit Building A Caring Community, Inc., she directed a mentoring program for over 10 years, ran the Women Online Bible Study for 3 years, and did workshops internationally as well as locally as a professional Life Strategist. Through coaching, Allison passionately builds up women so that they can, with spiritual as well as emotional health, achieve professional success while balancing the many demands put on them.