They didn’t do things, they watched themselves doing things. They had heard of one guy that had given up physical contact with other people, for fear of it bringing him into the moment. They filmed themselves, recorded their thoughts in text messages and group chats. They took countless photographs. With physical imagery a thing of the past the potential to archive was no longer reliant on spatial restrictions – the world that had once been described as ‘small’, and which the onset of online communities had made even smaller, had effectively become a much bigger place. Data took on the same emotional significance as was once given to second-hand, sat on a shelf by the fire for thirty years, hardback books. The emphasis on storing for posterity became everything – yet none of the old stuff was ever revisited – it was just always there. They needed to experience things as they are in the now and as they were in the then, at the same time, so they had already experienced them as memories the first time they lived them. What they spent most of their time doing was watching other people’s lives being lived out as pasts.
This is not living the memory as a moment, which is what we used to call reverie: this is living the moment as a memory, and is quite the opposite.
We didn’t do the things we wanted to do in the moment, we did the things we wanted to have done. The things we knew we would enjoy looking back on. They finally realised – the brighter ones finally admitted – that experience being as fleeting as it is was better enjoyed on reflection than first time round, and so they started to twist their everyday events towards memorialisation. Everything was done for posterity. Everything was done for the memory of it.
Happiness, after all, can only be experienced in its absence.