Memory’s paradox

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Memory’s paradox

I used to be confident about my memories overall
— just not those from my college years. I was in
university in the gloomy 1980s, and I know that
subconsciously I erased some experiences completely.
But now that I think of it, my overall memory
seems to be messed up. In the past few days, I have
met a number of people who remember me as someone
I don’t remember myself to be. I find myself
asking, “Did I really do that?”
Unless their memories are wrong, I am discovering
a new me. My old friends tell me absurd facts
about myself, and inside I’ll wonder: Who am I really?
At the same time, there are some memories that
I would rather forget but cannot. I am quite timid,
and even a slight slip of the tongue lingers in my
memory. Maybe I thought I had good memory because
I can’t forget minor missteps. But such is the
paradox of memory: the more you want to forget,
the better you remember.
The incomplete and subjective memory is often
explored through art. Hong Sang-soo’s “Virgin
Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors” depicts the selfcentered
memories of a woman and a man about the
same situations. “Black Mirror,” a sci-fi UK television
series on Channel 4, is set in a future where
people have chips implanted in their brains to supplement
incomplete memory.
The device records objective memories like a
surveillance camera. People can view certain parts
as necessary, share their records or magnify the
view. The show’s protagonist voluntarily removes
his own chip after he rewinds some of his own
memories and discovers that his wife is having an
Recently, Facebook began a new service of
showing what I did one, two or three years ago today.
It is something most people have forgotten.
Facebook may remember me better than I do. It may
be closer to my true self than who I think of myself
as according to my incomplete memory.
Facebook aspires to be a digital archive recording
the personal histories of its users. But it was
creepy to see the postings from the past I had forgotten.
The digital world is a space where nothing is
ever completely gone.
A Facebook friend posted, “When people advocate
‘the right to be forgotten,’ digital machines remind
us of the reality where we cannot be forgotten.”

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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