For me it is simple.
The first absolute truth is that today’s technology will one day become obsolete in the tide of time.
Technology becomes obsolete all the time. You sometimes have to pay a hefty price to have obsolete tech made into a usable format for modern day. Like the VCR. I have maybe a dozen or so video tapes for VCR. But it seems awfully ridiculous to try and have them converted to DVD. Kind of dumb. I could just go buy the same movie on BlueRay or DVD, but that won’t happen with your digitally backed up images. You cannot go out and just re-buy the same images at a store. You would have to have the files completely converted over at an extra expense or cost to you, just to preserve them. Silly right? OR if they were professionally photographed, you are taking a gamble that your photographer will still have the images. Most won’t. Most of their contracts state that they will delete images after a certain length of time (normally two or three years), to make space for new images. Storage space is an expense for photographers, in case you never thought of that. Or, the photographer may no longer be in business, or alive. Don’t expect them to be be your memory keepers. They just help record them.
The second most absolute, and possibly scarier truth is that one day, we may not have the ability to recollect WHO was in those photographs, or what was happening.
My grandmother has Alzheimer’s. And we have hundreds and hundreds of old photographs of hers of hundreds of different people. She used to be sharp as a tack. And knew everything forward and backward. Juggling many tasks at a time. Now she cannot remember who anyone is anymore. Sometimes, I see a glimmer of what I think may be recognition, and as soon as it comes, it goes.
She will never be able to tell us who the faces are in the photographs we have now. It will be a miracle if we ever learn who they were.
And so the proof of existence of who these people were, now becomes just a shadow that was once our ancestors. Lost to time, dust, and all memory.
I don’t want to let that happen with my memories. I have vowed to myself that every photograph that I print from now on, will be overloaded with detail. The backs of the images saturated with facts, dates, people, locations and more. I feel it is my responsibility. Even if I never have children, at least the memory will be preserved for ME years down the line.
It is YOUR responsibility to not lose memories. They are precious. You who keeps your memories on a disc without printing are gambling that you will remember in 70 years who everyone is. Or that you won’t die before then. Or that technology will continue to support the format that your images are in.
Don’t take the risk. Remember to print your photographs. Even your crappy little cellphone images. You have to do it. Because you never know what the future brings.