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Hoarded nostalgia on the internet

May. 17, 2018
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A Google Alert for Evanna Lynch pops up on my screen at 6:09 PM sharp, biweekly.

Evanna Lynch seems cool enough, I have nothing against her. But, I made this Alert back in the day. A day of my tweens. A day when receiving emails, even spam, made me feel grown up. A day when I still ran a Harry Potter fan page on Facebook (Ms. Lynch played Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter, if that association was not made sufficiently clear).

The seconds it takes to acknowledge the presence of an incoming message, to recognize its need for deletion, and then the seconds it takes to switch tabs and, finally, to delete it from my mailbox... The minutes those seconds accumulate to create... The hours, days, weeks, months, years (?) I’ve spent thinking about how I really should unsubscribe to all those mailing lists and Google Alerts I no longer care to receive. Why do I continue to waste these moments on this unappreciated mass of messages? Perhaps I appreciated the attention when those were the only emails I would receive, but now my mailbox is consistently overwhelmed by meaningless clutter. Ads, mailing lists, and, yes, Alerts I never read, with the emails of substance only sprinkled in between.

I could delete my Evanna Lynch Google Alert. I am fully capable. I have deleted other Alerts, in the past. Somehow, however, this one, along with my Hank and John Green news updates and reminders via the one and same Google-sent “Alerts,” slipped through the cracks.

I confess I have never taken the time to scrutinize the contents of these Google Alerts. Not even when I first subscribed. The attraction spurred from the attention; Google’s constant care, interest, and reliable memory for whatever it is, or was, that entices me.

Despite their technical origin, these biweekly reminders serve as a harmless comfort to me. They allow me to thoughtlessly reminisce while my electronic “trash” bin starts to resemble the makeup of a productive real-world spring cleaning.

But how thoughtful of Google? To remember. What I wished to see.

Even if that thoughtfulness, their remembering, comes from thoughtless code. Still, it comes from code—that had to have been created with care, no? And thought, as well, I would presume. Even if the thought and care were intended not for me, specifically, and more for the general us, as consumers. The thought and care was still there, somewhere.

These tenacious reminders, these long ago-made Google Alerts, allow me not to hoard or hold on, physically, to all that elicits the nostalgia I clearly crave. These Alerts allow me to scroll past the history of my interests constantly. They force me to slow down for a collection of seconds and recognize from where it is I came.

Normally, mere seconds after deletion, I forget their past presence. But sometimes, when overwhelmed by the real world, I feel pangs of indignation for the receipt of those emails I, myself, had requested.

I resent the space they unapologetically inhabit. And then I go on to make a big, Thanksgiving-sized meal of deleting those emails. I impatiently devour more than just a second or so of existence, and switch tabs theatrically, so as to escape the mundanity—and actuality—of this exact moment. I use these Alerts as an excuse to escape, to reminisce. Even if I pretend to do so begrudgingly.

My Evanna Lynch Google Alert gifts me ‘productive’ procrastination, and maybe—maybe—perspective, even?

Perspective that this current second, this second that is no longer with us—yes, that second which I just stole from your body’s grasp—and this one, too—will soon be viewed with a similar lens of nostalgia, accompanied, perhaps, by a similar flow of indignation and, dare I say, love.

And maybe the memory of this second, or that second, will make you or me chuckle. Because maybe in this second, or that second, you or I made, or will make, some insignificant decision, like signing up for some Google Alert for some celebrity in some movie one of us particularly care[d] for at this [that] moment... and maybe the repercussions of this second, or that second, guide us to the next ones.