Chances are you know someone who has registered their newborn for an email address, Facebook account, or domain name. Increasingly, parents are carving out a space for their children’s future selves to exist online. The Today Show covered this phenomenon in 2014.
Only recently has technology come to facilitate the creation and storage of unlimited photos, videos, and audio recordings. We no longer are faced with the problem of having too few album pages to accommodate a pile of printed photographs. As a result, stories abound of parents photographing their child (usually on a very regular basis) and sending the results to the child’s email address, to which he will eventually be given access as part of a 21st century gesture toward coming of age. One mom wrote of this practice on her blog, “If you sign your kid up for an email address, you can send messages to his or her future self.”
Implicit in this practice is the assumption that the final product – an archive of experiences as curated by the parent – will contribute to, or even inform the child’s sense of autobiographical memory (p.3). According to American psychologist Susan Bluck, one of the three main functions of autobiographical memory is “self-continuity”, or to “preserve a sense of being a coherent person over time” (p.3).
But what if this sense is dictated by an external curator? Can biographical memory serve as a substitute for autobiographical memory?