Chief Article Writer Brittany Sutcliffe shares her thoughts on lifelogging.

I can’t seem to stay away from tech lately, it’s all I can write about. It’s making up the bulk of my life at the minute, it’s how I organise my social life and my commitment to BUMF, it’s how I keep in contact with far-off friends and family, it’s how I email companies and tutors, it’s how I listen to music, how I shop, how I create artwork. No wonder companies want to sample my data if the tech is as integrated into me as a twenty-metre skin-burrowing worm parasite.

After that beautiful analogy, I’m actually going to talk positive. The potentials of collecting data, formally known as “Lifelogging”. Lifelogging is the act of recording everyday activities, not such a showbiz definition but people have done a lot with it. “Day-To-Day Data” is a book by Ellie Jones, one I’ve stumbled across in our very own library. It features nine artists who have set up their own specific lifelogging projects. One focuses on finding abandoned supermarket trolleys and mapping how far they are from home whilst another looks at recording a singular splat of a teabag on a piece of paper after making each tea, dating the paper and keeping the splat filed away. I value these projects under the same level as pub quiz knowledge, you don’t ever need it in real life but there’s something funny about it so your brain commits it to memory nonetheless.

If that’s not your thing, maybe you need a bit more justification. I guess we could call it instinct, the need to document life. Storytelling, cave paintings, books. Not all just films and photos chaps. There’s no doubt in future that we’ll be able to capture and store more in different ways. Suddenly we’ll be able to find that the name of the guy who was “in that thing that one time”. The last name of that friend of a friend. Not just the niggling everyday faults of the human mind but the big things that grip us for a while. Quantified Breakup is a Tumblr blog set up by a woman (anonymous) who wanted to reflect on her breakup in an unorthodox way. She posts graphs and diagrams of how she’s been sleeping, the number of texts she’s sent between ex’s/friends/new flames, the amount of money she’s spent on retail therapy and how useful those items actually were. The list of what she records goes on and the graphs are quite nice to look at (as graphs go). Love is something we’re lead to believe we can’t calculate, that we can’t control, and yet this project illustrates emotional strength through something as compassionately lacklustre as numbers. The potential of this information is beautifully absurd. It suggests a future ability to predict the reverse, not just falling out of love but falling in love. Watch the official YouTube video for Wilkinson’s “Afterglow” if you don’t believe me.

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An activity you might have done before is writing a letter to you in five or ten years. The idea that we can contact our future self via a letter emotes raw nostalgia. It’s hard not to look back on your younger self and their hopes and dreams without cracking a smile. I got my little sister to do one a few years back and I’ve still got it, make me laugh every time; “For a job you can be an actress or be in the army for serious. Don’t kiss ugly boys who aren’t nice and can’t make tea right”. Now, my thirteen-year-old sister still stands by that (or so she says) but whether or not any of it will happen, we can’t possibly predict. As we can all agree, none of us are the same person we were at thirteen, let alone what we’ll be like when we’re thirty. In 2014, Matthew McConaughey dedicated his Academy Award to his hero, for his speech he said the following:

“I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing”.

Putting that into context, how could you not look back at a lifetime’s worth of letters and remember the pain entailed in past hardships, how bleak things might have looked, and feel the sheer relief wash over you as you’re able to sit where you are now, doing your own thing. Might even give you the strength to move past what you’re going through now. I’ve found that writing to yourself can give you a sure-fire comfort in change. If you’re going to “lifelog”, I really suggest doing it with words. Your brain jogs the imagery itself and nine times out of ten, it’s more intense than what a pre-existing iPhone image can give you.

If you can’t already tell, I am pretty in love with the idea. The only issue I had was storing the letters for that long so I found another way. A website called “myfutureself.com”. They send you questions as often or as little as you like to your inbox and your reply goes through their encrypted site where you can privately read all your answers without losing them. The questions will be along the lines of “What will you remember most about today?” or “What was your most recent dream?”. You can even cancel the questions altogether and just email the account they give you stating what happened that day. I’ve been doing this since May and I’ve got a significant number of entries now. There’s a search bar where you can type keywords to find out what you said about that topic as the site uses this to filter down the entries. They also give you a Wordle sphere where you can see which names and places come up the most in your entries. In previous articles, I’ve mentioned the idea that we all have a second self from our online presence that we alter for sake of keeping up appearances. On MyFutureSelf? You can be as honest or as insincere about your life as you want and it’s all there for you to go back and look at in private. Just, you know, make a note of your password.
Words by Brittany Sutcliffe // Illustrations by Rachel Chorley