Digital Locket: On Lock Screens & Memories

One writer explores how her phone can act as a digital locket to hang onto vital connections and memories

Feature by Mayanne Soret | 11 Jul 2019
  • Digital Locket

I haven’t changed my phone’s lock screen background in the past three years. It’s a Snapchat screenshot of my friend Keno and me with the dog filter. In the three years since we took it, we haven’t lived in the same country. Keno and I met at university, five years ago – we were one year apart on the same course, and we became close friends in my final year. While I moved to Paris after graduating, she stayed in London completing her degree, and as soon as she did, she had to fly back to Japan. Ironically, I was moving back to the UK at the same time. 

All friendships require work but long-distance friendships require work, trust, and some strong logistics. At the heart of these logistics is my phone. Keno and I message regularly, weekly if not daily, and I have Tokyo’s time zone saved onto my phone so I can look up the time whenever I message her or simply when I think of her. We spend days scheduling calls trying to wrap our heads around the nine-hour time difference, or ring each other while in a taxi or when packing up our bags for the day’s work ahead.

Most of the time, it is my phone that I use to message, call and send her pictures of my travels – and Keanu Reeves memes. My lock-screen is the first thing I see in the morning when I switch my phone on, and the last thing before bed when I switch it off. This one image’s constant presence in my life is a witness to one of the hardest, most committed, and fulfilling human relationships I’ve had, and a reminder of the better person it has seen me become.

A few months ago, at a talk on memory and family photographs, the speaker pondered regretfully on the loss of printed photographs in the digital era as an irreplaceable medium for memory-making. While I mused on the idea, I took my phone in my hand and looked at the lock screen: my own keepsake photograph, a digital locket for the modern age.