Forget Me Nots

A brief exploration of the memories that lurk in one person's inbox.

I wonder what he's up to

What was that last email he sent me?

Did he ever reply?

There's that draft I never sent...

Maybe I shouldn't go there.

Maybe I should go to there

How many emails did he send?

Tell me more

There are 1,924 emails of Allison’s ex-boyfriends in her gmail account. Remnants of a relationships that tell partial stories of the beginning, middle and end of each relationship.

With digital storage getting cheaper and cheaper we have gone from a default of forgetting to a default of digitally assisted remembering. The question is: should we or should we not revisit these memories?

Let's go there

Allison doesn't look at her emails all that often. There's usually some wine involved, she said. Sometimes she looks at them when she's lonely. Maybe she hasn't had a good date in a while. Or she sees a status update from an ex. Or she happens upon an email while searching for something else.

Triggering memories often just takes one message. One nagging little message that suddenly takes hold of her.

Tap inside the box below to see a sticky and persistent little memory.
Hover over the box below to see a sticky and persistent little memory.

Take me further down the rabbit hole

And then suddenly she finds herself re-reading multiple emails and looking at old photos. This raw material is available to her to be re-interpreted again and again. It’s the digital equivalent of the shoe box of memorabilia people sometimes keep in a dusty corner of their attic. The content oscillates between humorous and logistical, profound and mundane.

Below are all the emails of Allison's ex-boyfriends that are trapped inside her inbox. Each color represents a different boyfriend. Rummaging through your email archive is a bit like opening Pandora's box — it starts an innocuous search driven by curiosity and has the potential of ending in emotional doom and gloom. ↴

Open Pandora's box

ex 1 (273 emails)
ex 2 (61 emails)
ex 3 (604 emails)
ex 4 (860 emails)
ex 5 (126 emails)
Note: Data is from 2009 to 2015. In addition to these emails, Allison can also access 14,119 chats.
Source: Allison