networks

Faint memory fragments through a different lens

A couple of weeks ago, a coincidence of reunions. Two people I know slightly, when brought into the same room turned out to have been at university together, more years ago than either would probably care to dwell on. Earlier that day a friend had told me about meeting the husband of an acquaintance – I know him, she said, now where from? Then the memory resurfaced, of one brief conversation 30 years ago in the woodwork room, with this boy who wasn’t in her class. She even remembered his name.

I reassure myself, when facts, dates and details escape me, that it’s all in there somewhere and I could retrieve it if I really had to. Whether that’s true or not, it’s the junk that remains a little nearer the surface that’s interesting, and the way it differs for everyone. In both instances I mentioned, one of the pair had a memory sparked off by the other’s presence while the other took more prompting (or didn’t have any recollection at all but was too polite to say so). Was it seeing the person that triggered the memory, or would they have spontaneously surfaced if the recaller had been asked half an hour earlier to think of people from university, or from school?

It made me wonder about all the paths I’ve crossed at 4 schools and 3 universities, not to mention everywhere else I’ve ever been. Spontaneously, I can remember all sorts of odd details about people even if I never knew their names, regulars from the bus I stopped catching 5 years ago, or girls the year below me at primary school. Do they remember me at all, or do I show up on the radar of people I wouldn’t even recognise if they introduced themselves to me at a party? Not that I go to parties, but maybe if they ran into me in the middle of Bradford or strolling through Eldon Square one Christmas. Does the girl whose pristine set of plain wood casing colouring pencils from WH Smith (W Aitchsmith, as she always said) that I can still picture so vividly remember that she owned them, aged 8? If she remembers me at all, is there some detail in the forefront of her mind that I’ve long forgotten?

I dread to think how some people remember me, and I’m absolutely certain I’ll have faded from some memories I’d rather have lodged in, but I’d like to think there are a couple of people in the East Midlands with hazy 30-year recollections of a little girl who always had a Snoopy flask full of tea.

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If I blog about tweeting, then tweet this, will I be stuck in an infinite loop?

Prompted in part by Louise Doughty’s recent post at the Telegraph SSC where she asked if any of us tweet, I’ve finally taken OneMonkey’s advice and joined Twitter (@JYSaville, since you ask). So far I’ve resisted the urge to tell the world what I had for breakfast, when I’ve poured myself another cup of tea (if I did that, I’d never have time to write anything else) or what colour I’m painting my nails. In fact, so far I haven’t said anything.

In the last few years while I’ve been aware of Twitter, I’ve dipped a toe in every so often without signing up. I’ve looked at Neil Gaiman’s page or friends who’ve already taken the plunge, and I could never get beyond the impression that this was a jumbled transcript of all the different one-sided phone conversations heard on a bus during a long journey. None of it made any sense, I found it hard to tell who was saying what to whom, and I couldn’t understand the appeal. Then I read something in an explanation of Twitter which suggested it was an information-gathering system in which you could immerse yourself and filter out the bits of interest. Suddenly it doesn’t matter who’s speaking, if I overhear that magazine X is now looking for stories on theme Y I can just go investigate. It’s a nudge in a particular direction. And if someone insists on talking about their preferred biscuits I can ignore them for now, until Twitter starts to make some sense.

I’m not what you’d call a social animal and I haven’t gone out of my way to build up networks while blogging; if people stumble across my blog and enjoy bits of it that’s fantastic, and if someone takes the time to comment I’ll respond, but that’s about as far as it goes. With Twitter it’s all about following – how can I gather snippets from those eavesdropped conversations if I’m not having them directed my way? It wouldn’t even let me finish signing up without following at least 8 people. However, I’m already reconsidering following Neil Gaiman because he seems to retweet hundreds of things (where does this man find the time to write?!) and it’s just confusing. I’m trying to follow people that either stay roughly on topic or just don’t say much at all, for now. Far from being a modern mobile user of social media, I’ll be checking Twitter maybe once a day at home, and probably not for long. If wading through all the accumulated tweets since the last time takes up my whole writing slot, that somehow misses the point.