Whether by accident or design, a lot gets lost in this digital age. From unofficial gmail accounts to official statements made from the wrong side of history, important things get deleted without much notice.
Most of us live with the daily humiliation of hovering on the obsolete side of technology unwilling to go through the new-software-pain-threshold unless confronted with digital exclusion. With shattered short-term memories courtesy of the pandemic, so much goes unnoticed until you find yourself saddling up your moral high horse to engage with any number of human rights abuses or professional bun fights that you just can’t ignore any more.
My own ethical peccadillo for the summer is to write up the gruesome tale of psycho-compulsion and the uses and abuses of wellbeing to duck our duties to provide welfare. Yup, that’s my bikini-babe summer for you. It’s at this point of needing to evidence the collusion of the mental health industry with austerity that I find the digital document trail has been edited or disappeared. Institutional history reshaped into a kinder less angular form leaving us to bob around in a sea of fact-free opinion and half remembered truths.
Note to self, screen shot everything that you see on institutional social media that looks dodgy and put it in a file named “You were absolutely utterly right”.
Last week I lost someone and found another. A man who I used to share an office with died suddenly. Nobody knows how. I now dwell in a cave of dark feeling that it had something to do with working in the most toxic work environment I’ve ever experienced. Can’t prove it to people who don’t want to see it, but I know that his body took the most awful hit, as did mine and many others working in that pit. He was just six months into retirement although the official emails did a pretty vicious attempt to make light of the fact that they contributed towards it being so short. Death is shocking. Always. Because it brings with it an honesty that is in stark contrast to statements of institutional condolence.
In the same week I found someone I used to share another different office with. After a year of unanswered emails I’d prepared myself for not ever finding him again. Like many friend-colleagues I don’t actually know where he lives. His daughter emailed me and it turns out he had poor health about a year ago, has recovered but has been left with the legacy of not remembering anything from 2018-2019. With a cosmic chuckle-chuckle-snort he remembers every detail of this pandemic, but not anything we wrote or talked about for two years including all this research into working conditions in mental health. A chronology of the mental health crisis both lost and found.
Someone sent me the most magical twitter thread the other day, of people who have been lost in life but remain on google maps. Pictured in their gardens, in the street or opening their doors to childhood homes, the people we love are found again. Captured for years after the hard drive died and their digital identities sold off to an 18 year old. Their loved ones choked with the casual unexpected find of a past life, safely tucked away from data mining and people who can make money from our existence without us even knowing.
As someone who isn’t capable of denial I never thought I’d ever be able to forget things. Things I want to forget like the episode of Hand Foot & Mouth we went through in late 2019 or that Jerry Hall actually married Rupert Murdock. But now, what with the exhaustion of these last few years I fear that the idea we don’t forget what’s important isn’t actually true. That our memories have to be captured and protected from the routine re-cycling of our experiences that we now live with.
Surviving Work will be attempting to stay one step ahead of obsolescence by spending the summer backing up, redesigning their various websites and will return in September, potentially upgraded.
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