• Mallory Garber

Are Digital Time Capsules better than Physical ones?

So much of what used to be physical in our world has gone digital. So why do we cling to the outdated notion of a physical time capsule, buried in our backyard? Isn’t it time that we reinvented our thinking? Read this blog to discover how the way of time capsules have changed forever.

Growing up, I always had an interest in time capsules. I thought the idea of having a seal preserve your most treasured items for years was such a unique concept. There is no better feeling than that moment when you accidentally stumble upon a forgotten memory. I remember as a kid, I would purposely hide objects in hopes that I would forget about them and get that feeling back when I inevitably found them. Essentially I was trying to trick myself into making intentional time capsules around my childhood room…child psychology is weird (or maybe it’s just me).

Now, moving out of the home I spent my whole life in, I keep finding mementos that have no trouble throwing me back into the past. They give me a sense of security and make me ache with nostalgia. It is convenient to have items I can look back on the past with while going through times like these. That is the purpose of time capsules: to enlighten you on the past and pave a better road for your future.

Now here comes the tricky part…the physical act of actually making a time capsule. Let’s face it, we are lazy. We live in the age of 2020 where we call a person in the other room because we don’t feel like walking over to them. I am not criticizing anyone, just stating the facts. Our society has developed technology so advanced, it has heightened our expectations, making us want things to come quickly, conveniently and most importantly…easily. That being said, making a physical time capsule seems exhausting. Most of you would not admit it, so I will just say it for you. Remember that advanced technology I spoke of? Well i found a time capsule technology solution to that. Much like Apple’s famous trademark, “there’s an app for that,” well…there is actually a website for that!

Websites like give people the opportunity to create virtual time capsules that last for more than three lifetimes. What is so unique about digitalizing mementos with NotForgotten technology is that it can avoid both data and physical rot and time capsules are protected by a Trust Fund.

In many ways, a virtual time capsule is essentially the same thing as a physical one. What really separates the two is convenience. It is not secret that technology is on our side, why not use it to our advantage? Most of what we use now is online anyway. Take news papers as an example. Think about how much they have evolved over the years. Where my dad grew up reading the news on black and white paper sheets, I get all of my current events through apps and social media.

The people that are likely to find the capsules buried now will be even more advanced in society. Even if you want the wistful touch of providing an actual news paper, a simple digitalized photo preserves both the idea and nostalgia.

If you read my last blog, you would know that I made my very own digital time capsule as a gift for my sister for her wedding. Given that I have attempted making both a digital and physical capsule, I can definitely say digital is the way to go. Before I even knew I could make a time capsule online, I started to make one in high school. I was very stuck on the idea that a time capsule had to be a metal seal buried deep in the ground. With that in mind, I had trouble deciding what exactly I wanted to give up for the next 10 years, not to mention finding the perfect spot to start digging. The general idea was there, but the logistics became too complicated. What if water got in it? What if nobody could find it and it was all for nothing? What if I forget about it? What if what I put inside is not important enough? My self doubt and insecurities held me from truly finishing a real master piece. Talk about wasted potential!

I found it almost comical how I contemplated the physical capsule for years and finished my digital one in a mere 30 minutes. Making my capsule with NotForgotten assuaged all the concerns that were originally holding me back. I did not have to worry about it getting lost because I could register it with the International Time Capsule Society. It sounds prestigious because well…it is. The organization was established to promote the careful study of time capsules. Turns out time capsules can mean so much more to history than being past junk. I was able to register my time capsule and have it cataloged in the public library system. Its now going to be cared for by their Digital Preservation Trust. This way, not only will my capsule be accessible to loved ones down the line, but for anyone who may take an interest. Creating capsules virtually has allowed us to become part of something greater than ourselves.

By becoming a part of the International Time Capsule Society, you become an essential part of history and how people will view the past.

With that being said it sounds like a lot of pressure, but whatever is put inside your time capsule should personalize you. There is no telling how your memories may impact the future and how they may help others. Another perk of creating your time capsule virtually, or at least with NotForgotten, is that it provides a guide on what you should put inside. If you are like me, your brain is in a million different places at once, never being able to settle on one particular thing. I was able to categorize what type of capsule I wanted to make and view a list of examples of things that would typically fall under that category. I even had the option to record my very own film with a trained professional videographer in high definition, and I could do it from home.

While making the digital time capsule, I was reassured that when it is viewed however long from now, it will in the same pristine condition as the day it was made. I also did not have to say goodbye or let go to items when putting them inside the capsule. I was able to cherish them in the moment, all the while knowing their memory would be preserved forever.

The internet in itself can be considered a time capsule. Angela Lashbrook, a columnist for OneZero, explains that,

“Like an external hard drive or a diary tucked under your mattress, the email accounts, instant messenger conversations, and blogs of our past hold nostalgic and sometimes even crucial memories.”

The internet has been ingrained into our lives, making it a source we turn to in desperate times. Lashbrook also points out that, “The internet has weaseled itself into nearly every aspect of our communication, especially for people confined to their homes because of the pandemic. And because of the way technology has impacted our memory, losing access to that catalog of correspondence can mean those memories are essentially gone for good.”

Physical time capsules made sense for generations before us because peoples’ daily routine did not involve technology. These days, you can build a picture of a person simply based off their Instagram profile. It’s just the way things are. We feel as though by documenting moments on social media, our minds can feel less inclined to be responsible for those memories. The mere act of posting a picture is for the purpose of securing that it is out there and cannot be lost.

So much of what used to be physical has gone digital — news paper broadsheets are in our palms 24/7, fading curling print photos have become online gallery's, penned letters have become emails, date with dinner and wine has become a selection on tinder followed by a Zoom chat, and playdates are global connected sessions on Fornite. So why do we cling to the outdated notion of a physical time capsule, buried in our backyard? Isn’t it time that we reinvented our thinking.

We live in a fast paced, connected digital world where everything has become a “snap” a “tik tok” a “selfie”, a “whatsapp”, even the definition of a “story” has morphed. Most of us live our lives out in public, online, and not all of it in a flippant way. Virtual time capsules can meaningfully contribute to history and learning from our past, and they can be a priceless gift for our families. Now more than ever — at this moment in time when there is a far more earnest mood online — we should be documenting the way we live, sharing our experiences — not for the instant narcissistic contribution to the growing library of selfies, but to contribute to a real understanding of history. We can fit so much more of our real selves into digital time capsules and all of our digital time capsules, collectively, at scale, saved for hundreds of years will be a fascinating montage of life.

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