The Online Afterlife
How long will your ghost of tweets-past haunt cyberspace?
Blair Kelly / www.blairkellystudio.com
The Library of Congress’ recent announcement that it intends to stockpile every last spasm of consciousness ever tapped into the Twitter void seemed like a curious allocation of resources for one of our greatest cultural archives.
Yet even without the Library of Congress’ ambitious Twitter archive, the Internet offers plenty of opportunities for a sort of online immortality. Whether or not you regard that as a good thing likely depends on the size of your ego and the nature of your Internet activities, but there’s little question that computer technology makes it easier than ever for even the most anonymous among us to leave a lasting document of our interests, activities, and ruminations.
As NEEL, an unnamed U.S. software consultant, points out in India Currents (Sept. 2010), folks have always left behind personal archives in the form of diaries, correspondence, photographs, home movies, and other ephemera, but as anyone who has frequented estate sales or auctions could testify, much of this material tends to be lost or scattered with the passing of time. Now, however, with e-mail, blogs, file-sharing sites, and community spaces like Facebook, the record of our human interactions and passions has—at least for now—a permanent home even after we’re gone.
As a result, NEEL says, by zealously tracking online trails and contributions, some interested future party could “fashion a deep narrative of a departed individual from his or her Internet history.”