ugh I'm so jealous of your photographic memory, you don't know how lucky you are.
I think it’s time I dispelled some common misconceptions surrounding the subject.
Sure, statistically speaking, they’re hard to come by. But I am by no means lucky.
Have you ever read Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes? Yes, he’s a genius, but he’s also a fucking sociopath. Can’t blame him either. It’s kind of hard not to be with all that going on in your head. But Mr. Holmes is a fictional character. So let’s move on.
The standard human memory can be divided into three constituents:
- Sensory Register: everything your body takes in from the environment, it has a huge capacity but obviously the retention-span is brief.
- Short-Term Memory: any sensation which causes the neural stimulation to continue through resonance will be added to your short-term memory. Laughably small capacity, and lasts under a few minutes. Its decay is measured on an exponential curve, so you forget rapidly within the first few seconds, and as time elapses, the rate of forgetting is retarded. And by retarded, I mean slowed down.
- Long-Term Memory: when resonance continues and neural activity is prolonged (through several methods, rehearsal, active remembering, repeat exposure etc., etc.) the neurons will grow processes (physical appendages) and attach to each other, creating a network. As long as any one part of that network is stimulated, you’ll be able to reconstruct the entire memory.
With my memory, if left uncontrolled, literally everything from the sensory register spills over into my STM. And once it’s there, it’s almost instantly bound to my LTM. I don’t need to remember that the guy standing across from me on the train this morning scratched his mouth a total of four times over a period of 26 minutes and seven express stops. But I do. Filtering, processing and maintaining an eidetic memory (if it isn’t mediocre), requires a constant, conscious effort. Eventually it becomes semi-passive. But if you don’t do what’s required to keep it under control, you’ll go crazy. I’ve been there. Several times.
Also, as I’m sure you’re aware, a vast majority of memory consolidation occurs during sleep. Imagine what happens when you have a photographic memory and don’t sleep. That’s me most nights.
I don’t need to study for exams, and if my laptop’s battery died in the middle of an essay, I could easily retype it all verbatim. For the price of having to tell my brain that it needs to shut the fuck up 24/7.