Many years ago now, the Swedish rock band Wilmer X had a hit with their song Teknikens under (Technical wonders). One of the more significant lines of that song is “du kan glömma dina ensamma stunder – du kan lita på teknikens under” (you can forget your lonely moments – you can rely on the wonders of technology). I was quite young when the song first came out, and I remember thinking that it sounded rather lewd. Nowadays, when I’m in a long-distance relationship, I must say that they were right. And not only in the lewd ways. Thanks to technology, especially the technology of the Internet, of computers in general, and of the mobile phone evolution, I am actually never far away from my other half.
We text each other several times a day, we talk, courtesy of special long-distance telephone deals, once or twice daily, if we both have Internet access, we have each other on each sides of our screens, either via some instant messaging option or via some forum or other. We email each other and we leave small virtual notes lying around here and there. We send pictures from our daily lives, and I’m even thinking about taking up recording voice messages for him to download and enjoy whenever he likes.
There are so many ways of being close, verbally, despite being apart.
But what happens to our writing? Back in the day, when great artists wrote smouldering letters to their mistresses, which eventually, long after their deaths were published in great books or at least put into databases for textual analyses, things were kept, saved, to a much higher extent. Will we in the future be able to take part of the passionate and biographically revealing love letters of writer X to her lover Y? Probably not, because it was all done over SMS, and when they split up, he erased all the messages she sent him.
I have a box. It’s a box that I don’t open unless it is to put something in there, of things I could never get rid of. Love letters. Small tokens of affection. Memorabilia from long lost relationships. Little things that were once important and symbolic. One day, many, many years from now I hope, my children will find them and ask themselves what their mother really was up to before she met their father. They’re unlikely to go into any great archives, and I don’t go back to it to read. That’s not what they’re for.
But what with text messages? I’m not able to put those in a small box and keep them forever. And phone memories get full – eventually you have to make choices and delete some of your cute writings. Chat is better that way. Their memories seem to save any amount of conversation indefinitely. And email? Well the servers protest after a while, but I can always save my correspondences on my hard drive. But what if it crashes? What if my back up crashes too? And what if I one day decide to do a big cleaning out? What if Strindberg (NOT saying that I’m Strindberg material, just trying out an argument here. I’d rather be Helium anyways… Misery!!!) had decided that a good spring cleaning was long overdue, and chucked out all his correspondence? What if Harriet Bosse had done the same? Then we’d have no letters of his left, mentioning how he proposed to her by saying “Do you want to have a small child with me, Miss Bosse?”. And I do spring clean.
I know it’s discussed every so often what is actually going to happen with history writing, now with the electronic medium, which on the one hand is very delicate and we have no idea how long different storage media will actually last, and on the other hand lets us keep record of soooo much more than we ever could before! But it’s also so much easier to throw things away. A lot of the really famous photographs of the past century are pics that were taken by chance or by mistake, at a fluke. A lot of the really important pictures are things that went on in the background. Often in failed pictures, the kind of picture that is very, very easy to just erase from your camera right after you’ve taken it. When the pictures were harder to acquire, people didn’t seem to get rid of them quite so easily.
I’m a little uncertain what I’m trying to say here. Maybe something like this: I miss my loved one despite being in almost constant contact with him, and I wish that I had the possibility to save every word he writes me, because, despite my professional opinion that chat and SMS aren’t really writing, but rather text mediated speech, it feels like writing, and writing ought to be saved. I don’t have a nagging feeling about the badness of getting rid of things from not being able to record and review our every conversation. I need to get my head sorted out around these issues, and try harder to stop feeling about it as text. But I guess the product is text, although the process is speech. Yeah, something like that.
But thanks to the wonders of technology, I have no lonely moments.