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RIP on the WWW

January 9, 2011

The NYT had a tedious but interesting article yesterday on concerns regarding one’s cyber legacy after death, and I have some words to say about it.

The gist of the article is not the tangible issue of what happens to your Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc… when you die, but rather a philosophical look at what that junk says about you. Your “cyber legacy” so to speak. Woof. The Times points out that “millions of us are “sharing” our thoughts and tastes; our opinions and observations about WikiLeaks and “Glee” and the Tea Party and some weird dude on the subway this morning; and photographs of newborns and weddings and parties and — why not? — that weird dude on the subway. Maybe the momentous and the momentarily amusing add up to a pleasing means of real-time connection, but what do they add up to when we’re gone? The legacy of a life you hope your survivors will remember? Or a jumble of “digital litter” for them to sort through?” (That paragraph could have benefited from an editor.)

They go on to find the worst type of egomaniac that personifies the “legacy of life” agenda and in a spectacular display of premeditated, posthumous narcissism, he says he “wants to leave a definitive, and stable, digital legacy behind — “a master repository of me…I want to fund a bank account,” he says, “so that when I die, a curator can be paid to digitize anything that may not have been digitized, manage the collection, maybe do some research, help people find stuff if they’re looking for it.” He does, however, lampoon himself so I don’t have to by adding, “You know, all these ego-driven things of not being a famous man yet treating my digital afterlife as if I were famous.” Too bad if you’re not famous, only your mom will read your digital archive, and she’s going to be disappointed.

The journalist knows this guy is a self absorbed, worst case scenario type, and goes on to point out that trivial accounts of day to day activity might be relevant to future historians, a concept I could almost get behind if it weren’t for the vast amount of sheer garbage about day to day life that people independently cherish. Independently being the operative word here.
That’s not say all of it is irrelevant. If prehistoric man, when documenting life with cave doodles, had allowed kids to join, perhaps we’d know a bit more about their day to day life, as kids aren’t limited to artistic bravado about epic mammoth hunts. That might be a good analogy for the importance of today’s average Joe on the internet, but how many of those trifles do we need? Now that we all have our own caves inside of caves inside of caves, who….

Aaaah, at this point in my rant, I got a funny text message about birds and completely forgot what I was on about. I came back to it and was like “oh geeeez, who even cares? I’m gonna go get a muffin,” which pretty much sums up exactly what I was trying to say from the start, before I let this shit show get away from me. My feelings toward the whole thing can be accurately summed up in what the NYT presents as a theoretical question, but I chose to read as a statement: “What difference does it make what happens to the mundane accumulated detritus that makes up so much of what we do online? Once the people who cared about our status updates are gone, who cares if the updates persist?”

My point exactly; no one cares. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I do indeed run a website entirely about my own, pathetic life that nets a solid amount of readers, but if my last post is a tweet about what I ate for breakfast, what the fuck do I care? I’m dead! If the afterlife is a place where I have nothing to do but fret about what type of internet legacy I left behind, I can only assume I’ve gone to hell and I’ll have to find a posthumous way to kill myself even deader because, man, what a fucking nightmare.

One more thing to contend with: The article purports that, “If people thought about dying more often, they’d think about living differently.” This is an entirely different discussion all together, one I just happened to have had twice, and both times I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t live differently. Unless I was given an exact, and short, amount of time left to live, but that’s not the concept in question here. The concept is thinking more about how your day to day life will eventually come to an end, and perhaps you should be more careful about what you do with it. This causes some people to be all “waaaah I never went to France!” or whatever, but you know what? You’re not going to give two fucks about France when you’re dead. If pissing away a Sunday afternoon sitting on the couch watching reruns in my pajamas is what I want to do, then I consider that living exactly how I wanted, and that’s as good as it gets, so there. Although, as Sarah pointed out in an interview that’ll drop later this week, I’m basically a sociopath so you should probably disregard everything I say. Also, I’ve been to France and it was just okay.