The Accidental Lifelogger

The Accidental Lifelogger 3

Guest blog post by: Tobias Malm

Photo of Tobias Malm

A lifelogger is a person who documents big parts of their life by photographing, writing, filming et cetera. You could compare it to a captain who documents their ship’s travels across the seas using a logbook. To a lifelogger, the ship is your body and time your sea. Most people enjoy documenting their lives. In most homes there are photo albums and in most desk drawers there are a bunch of important papers. A lifelogger takes this several steps further, which is possible with the help of new technology. An example of that is the wearable camera that the Swedish company Memoto is developing, which specializes in lifelogging by taking a picture every 30 seconds. The same company has produced a documentary about the phenomenon of lifelogging, and it was not until I saw it the other day that I understood the concept of it. After seeing the documentary, I realized that I’d been a lifelogger for almost all my life. In this post, I intend to tell you a bit about how this has expressed itself for me personally.

I’ve always had a peculiar interest in documenting things. I no longer remember how this started, but when I was about eleven years old I created a text document on my old Macintosh which I called my “logbook.” In it I mostly wrote down what I was doing on my computer and what I found on this new phenomenon called the Internet. I couldn’t spell and my teachers were considering the possibility that I was suffering from dyslexia. Unhindered by this, I continued to write down what I was doing during the days.

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I also made sure to archive everything I created on my computer. Everything from texts to pictures and websites. I created file systems where I put all of these things in their rightful compartments. I hadn’t yet started to value life beyond the internet in the same way, but after a while I slowly began to introduce it into my logbooks as well. On the 24th of November, 2002, at the age of 17, I started writing my own diary. Today I’ve written nine volumes of two hundred pages each. Since I started writing these diaries, they have become a big part of my life, but I have nevertheless always managed to live by the motto that the diaries should be about my life, and that my life shouldn’t be about the diaries.

When I was in high school digital cameras were becoming increasingly common, and even mobile phones came with cameras. Without giving up my writing, I started collecting photographs and film clips. Today I have over 30,000 of them stored on my external hard drives. The reason I continued writing was because neither photographs nor videos could capture what was going on inside my head at these various moments. Every time we look at a photograph, we see the past through new eyes and the way you saw things when the photograph was taken is easily forgotten.

Today I no longer have my very first logbook. I still remember how I lost it; my computer was formatted and the floppy disk that I had saved the logbook on broke. In vain, long after this incident, I unearthed old disks from basement offices and old boxes in my childhood home in hope that I had saved it on another disk and forgotten about it. It does sadden me that this document is gone; a document that could help me understand how I became the person I am today. Ever since that disk broke, I have been more careful to backup my disks. Still, I have lost important data after that. External hard drives have crashed and computers have stopped working before I’ve been able to do a backup of their content. Nowadays I save everything on Dropbox, Google Drive and my five external hard drives. Now it would basically require an intercontinental nuclear war for me to lose my data, and if that were to happen I’d have worse things to worry about anyway.

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Personal journals

On-demand prints of Tobias’ personal journals.

As I said before, I don’t remember why I, as a young teen, began writing my logbooks and documenting my life. But in the meantime, I have found new reasons for doing so. The diary I write is partly for therapeutic reasons. Writing down my memories, thoughts and feelings has given me a chance to deal with them in a balanced way, and reading my old diaries has helped me see how much I’ve matured as a person. Another reason is that I don’t want all my life to be compressed into a few hours of presentation of distorted memories. Memory is a treacherous thing and the more times we return to it, the less accurate it gets. If I’m lucky enough to grow old, I want to remember the ephemeral and ordinary; moments of my life that are sometimes just as important as my most magnificent experiences. Even if I should die young there is value in what I have saved, not for me, but for my family. I want those I leave behind to be able to get an answer to the question of who I really was. Would it turn out so badly that I die alone, I imagine that future generations will be able to take part in and enjoy the remains of my life. Not because I think that my life is more interesting than anyone else’s, but because I think that everyone’s lives are interesting. I can, however, only document my own.