As our lives are being lived ever increasingly digitally, I often think about the electronic footprint I’m leaving behind for posterity.
In times past, loved ones passed on years of correspondence – old love letters, journal entries, notes in the margins of calendars – from which those left behind could construct the simulacrum of a life lived.
What are we leaving behind today? Arguably, a richer set of media in the form photos posted to Facebook or Instagram, high definition videos of every waking moment, blog posts strewn across the interwebs.
It is a paradoxically ephemeral – and yet, everlasting – legacy we are leaving behind.
Ephemeral in the sense that – should there be a catastrophe where everything electronically was wiped away in an eye blink – there would be nothing for future historians to decipher who we were as a people and as a race; and everlasting, in that as we share our digital periscopes, they are innumerably replicated across the world in countless nooks and crannies of the web, to the extent that anything we throw into the ether cannot be retrieved and re-bottled, even if we desired with all our hearts to do so.
We are living lives with fragmented attention spans, conflicting and constant demands on our time – but little time for reflection and “soak.”
All the while, we’re leaving millions of digital footprints, all with the potential to last forever, but the very real possibility of being swept away like sandcastles in the surf.
Here, at the beginning, we are only starting to come to grips with the ghosts we are leaving behind.
‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
– “Ozymandias”, Percy Bysshe Shelley