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September 15, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Chat History: a story of love, loss, and IM.
posted by gwint (29 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I often use gmail as a time machine of sorts. This can easily be a double edged sword though, and I hope she isn't unnecessarily prolonging her grief. That said, it's a beautifully written piece.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've done this, with old IRC logs, but in my case it was only seeing the relationship deteriorate from cuddly wuddly affection to near-constant arguing and bitterness.

This is on another level of course. I swear every vague-ish link I click on MeFi lately has me nearly crying by the time I'm through with it!
posted by palidor at 10:39 AM on September 15, 2011

Man where the fuck did good.is come from? How are they so great at everything? I follow them on twitter and pretty much am engaged even by their throwaway links.

Anyway, this wonderful piece reminds me of this (less serious) Gmail Chat rumination I posted earlier this year.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:41 AM on September 15, 2011

BigHeartedGuy: I did not get the sense she was prolonging her grief, but rather using those messages and logs to help get through it. I have an mp3 of my grandfather giving an interview for a book about his theater in WWII, and every now and then I listen to it, to remind myself of his voice, his humor, and to remember the great times we had.
posted by Leth at 10:44 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

That just destroyed me.

I need to go compose myself now before i cry in the office.
posted by empath at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Maybe I should start using GChat instead of iChat on my work computer so I can save my chat logs without worrying about losing my job.

Sure is dusty in here right now.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:48 AM on September 15, 2011

this reminds me of a really interesting post on the blue awhile back. it was an article about gmail chat history as well, but it was a little bit satirical. had like a list of things she discovered about herself looking back at her chat history. anyone remember this?
posted by Avenger50 at 10:56 AM on September 15, 2011

Thanks Leth, good point. Your mention of the mp3 of your grandfather and its effect on you makes my morning, so thanks for that as well.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:02 AM on September 15, 2011

Social media is awful about dealing with deaths. As often as not, if you don't want my dead friend's name on my screen every other time you log in you have to unfriend them. You have to tell this faceless system that your dead friend isn't really your friend.

Fuck that and fuck you, website, is all I can think about that.
posted by mhoye at 11:18 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah, man. Always tell people how you feel. Remind them early and often. Never know when you won't get another chance. And you never know how much they're going to need that memory if you don't.
posted by Eideteker at 11:28 AM on September 15, 2011

Miss you, dad.
posted by Eideteker at 11:30 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

A few days ago I re-read a bunch of the posts at the Dear Elena blog (where a dad writes about losing one of his young daughters very suddenly).

It tore my heart out. My kids have been awful lately, but those posts just let all the air out of my anger at them. This post did the same thing.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:30 AM on September 15, 2011

Avenger50: I think it's this you were thinking of.
posted by Richard Holden at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2011

As often as not, if you don't want my dead friend's name on my screen every other time you log in you have to unfriend them.

No, it's worse than that. A dear IRL friend of mine died just before I had a chance to friend them on Facebook, and now every time I log on I get "Perhaps you'd like to be friends with..."
posted by Melismata at 12:22 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Damn you metafilter!

As soon as I read the diagnosis, I knew I wouldn't be able to get through this. Lost my Dad to this disease almost 14 years ago and I still cried in the doctor's office on Monday talking about my "family history."

And I was all ready to post my first snarky "eponysterical" comment. Stupid cancer.

Yeah, I wish I had this kind of correspondence history with my Dad. But I would probably spend my days reading and rereading and dehyrating myself from crying. Stupid cancer.
posted by blurker at 12:43 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I blame cancer. Fuck cancer.
posted by blurker at 12:45 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Fuck. That was crushing.
posted by TheCoug at 12:50 PM on September 15, 2011

This made my heart ache.

Mr. theraflu and I spend our days communicating via gchat. I have years of correspondence between us about everything from irrelevant minutia to discussion of all the huge life decisions (cohabitation, sex, marriage, travel, relocation, pets, children... everything). I can go back to the time we adopted our first cat, see the countless photos he sent while I was at work, and eventually find the heartwrenching conversations we had about when to put our sick cat down.

We also live in the DC Metro - the author even namedrops one of our favorite haunts. I'm going to go find two hugs - one for me, and one for her.

My second heartache is imagining how I'd feel if I ever lost access to my Google account. Tonight I'm going to be performing some backups.
posted by theraflu at 12:51 PM on September 15, 2011

I picked up the hard copy of GOOD last week. While reading the issue, I thought to myself, "there's so much here I could post on metafilter."
posted by danep at 1:29 PM on September 15, 2011

Avenger50: I think it's this you were thinking of.

Yes. Thank you.
posted by Avenger50 at 3:03 PM on September 15, 2011

~glad that there doesn't seem to be anyone in any of my neighboring cubicles to catch wind of me crying! Perhaps that is a good sign that it is clear to sneak out?

very touching
posted by Jayed at 3:33 PM on September 15, 2011

I once went through my gmail archives to find a hundred or so of my favorite text message exchanges between me and a lover, made a small, hand-bound accordion book and wrote them all out in it by hand. I was in my late teens at the time. It's sort of strange and lovely having all of those moments there: emails, text messages, journal updates and comment threads. It's like the human version of using bubbles trapped in arctic ice to find out what the air was like when it was trapped there.

Or, to quote Little Brother:
You could read the transcripts of the electronic arguments we'd carried out and the electronic reconciliations we'd arrived at.

You see, I don't delete stuff. Why would I? Storage is cheap, and you never know when you're going to want to go back to that stuff. Especially the stupid stuff. You know that feeling you get sometimes where you're sitting on the subway and there's no one to talk to and you suddenly remember some bitter fight you had, some terrible thing you said? Well, it's usually never as bad as you remember. Being able to go back and see it again is a great way to remind yourself that you're not as horrible a person as you think you are. Darryl and I have gotten over more fights that way than I can count.
posted by NoraReed at 3:51 PM on September 15, 2011

Argh. First cry reading something on the blue.
posted by pink candy floss at 4:50 PM on September 15, 2011

Ah, now, see, this is interesting. Such synchronicity! I blinked when I saw it. I actually just over the weekend went back through some of the AIM logs from the last blips of two of my previous relationships, years ago. They didn't end the way the one in the linked article did, though.

One friendship with an ex ended with basically a single ill-conceived conversation in which I was stupidly judgmental about a mutual friend I was annoyed at—about something it turned out my two friends had in common. End of chat, end of friendship and future relationship prospects. It turned out to be for the best, as otherwise, I might've continued seeking comfort from him—even as I was judging him—for God knows how long. The thing that gets me about this, though? I didn't remember that conversation at all!

The other friendship, with my ex-fiancé, ended—and I know exactly when it finally did peter out; it was right around the time the guy I'd been casually seeing let me and the world know he was suicidal, which turned the world inside-out—only after about six months of barbed, wounded, yet ridiculously matter-of-fact and understanding conversations. My ex-fiancé and I weren't right for each other, and we never would be...and the chats were how we hashed out what we wanted out of our respective futures. The thing that gets me about this, too? I didn't remember any of that, either! I remembered the breakup and sending back the ring, and I remembered the whole sequence of events that transpired with the guy after that, but the whole six months in between I'd only been remembering through reading my blog posts from the time—which completely left out the fact that I was still conversing with my ex-fiancé, sometimes on a daily basis. It was amazing to realize just how much I'd forgotten—including all the specifics we'd thrown at each other, in detail, re: our incompatible desires. Rereading that reminded me of who I once was before I became who I am now.

Who I am now is happily married to someone I'd only met in passing at that point. Those exes are also both married to new people. The reason I revisited the chat logs? One of my best friends just went to visit the old friend who introduced the two of us; we all used to go to reunions of the same summer academy, at one of which I'd met my ex-fiancé. I also revisited them because I was curious—were these conversations I could even read now? (I do the same thing every so often with a number of my old blog posts from college—I'm not quite there yet with some of them.) I think I'm also at a point now where, after a few months, I feel like my husband and I are really relaxing into marriage. So I revisited the logs, and it was truly illustrative.

But here's the thing I realized a couple days ago: Since Google and AIM parted ways (yeah, you can still add people with their AIM email addresses, but pretty much no one in my buddy list has accepted those "invitations") and I got a smartphone, I'm now using an app for AIM and Facebook chats (Imo) that, while it does let me search history in-app and on the app's website, doesn't synchronize those logs in any way with Gmail or provide them in an easily viewable, downloadable format. I'm having all of these conversations in a place where they can't be saved or exported. And that really bothers me—especially after seeing just how amazingly illustrative the logs have been about my personal history.

This all brings me to a question: Can anyone recommend a good chat app for Android that works with both AIM and Facebook (but doesn't merge their buddy lists) and provides a good automatic chat logging option that either stores chats in Gmail or provides a way to download them? I can't lose any more conversations to the void!
posted by limeonaire at 5:46 PM on September 15, 2011

posted by empath at 7:09 PM on September 15, 2011

I put on my robe and wizard hat. :(
posted by roue at 10:11 PM on September 15, 2011


Mm. Thanks for the rec. Unfortunately, it looks like Meebo's chat log feature, like Imo's, just saves them so they're accessible in-app or via Meebo's website, not downloadable or saved in email. If I'm reading this wrong, though, do tell!
posted by limeonaire at 9:54 AM on September 16, 2011

Leth, your story reminds me of an experience I had a couple years ago, with an auditor of all people. He was inspecting our office, but his audit occurred 2 weeks after his wife died following a prolonged bout with cancer. I don't know how he did it; he explained long nights crying, her screaming in pain, and was overall a walking wound of a human being.

He said one thing that really stuck with me: "What I miss most is her voice. Make sure you record your spouse's voice, reading their favorite poem, something that means something to them."

I really appreciated that advice, completely unsolicited, from a stranger.
posted by Turkey Glue at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Every once in a while I search for a keyword in my Adium chatlogs — "love", "kisses", "remember that night" — and just get a little bit overwhelmed at the times, the moments, the memories that I've forgotten but get to freshly remember because I've saved those logs.

They're my life, along with my emails, and to be able to replay them is some sort of an incredible privilege; the highs, the lows, the everythings. I can see how relationships started and where they started to slump, and I can learn from my mistakes simply by seeing them again.

I suppose it's a bit like the stacks of letters that lovers used to accumulate while apart, but now I can look back on the small things as well as the large.
posted by Han Tzu at 12:02 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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