“Confessions of an Educator” columnist Chris Margolin wonders about “the cloud” and what’s next (or what’s at risk) when it comes to passing down our own personal histories.
Text messaging, emails, ICQ, Classmates.com, Open Diary, Kiwibox, LiveJournal, BlackPlanet, Habbo, CollegeClub.com, DeviantArt, Fotolog, Blogger, AdultFriendFinder, Myspace, the new Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Snapchat, Google Talk (gTalk), Vine, Instagram, Kik, Reddit, Periscope, and, and, and, and, and ….
The world of social media and social networking has exploded over the last decade and, while we all seem to keep up with the times, we get farther away from what really matters: the art of socialization. No one wants to talk anymore.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I still pick up a phone or tuck a letter into an envelope and that my first go-to isn’t my cell phone for email or text, or that I don’t check my Facebook a thousand times a day and that my Twitter feed isn’t the first thing that I go to every morning while sitting on the pot. It’s true. It’s what the world has become and there are very few people—especially in my generation (I’m 35)—who choose to stay away from it all.
I wish I could remember the last actual letter that I wrote. I think it might have been to a friend of mine while he was in Iraq, but I can’t be sure, and that was so many years ago that I might even be making it up. Email just seems so much easier and, frankly, why write a letter when you can hit a button? It’s a sad statement though. I mean, what will happen to the history? What happens when this mythical “cloud” of information goes away? I mean, there will be another better, more efficient version and then our history is forgotten in the shift to the new world.
Emails get deleted. Text messages go away with the swipe of a finger or the change of a cell phone. Myspace messages might still exist, but we don’t remember our passwords. We’ve sent so many words through status updates, but what happens when the next wave of networking takes over? When all the newspapers have disappeared, we’ll no longer save them to microfiche—Wait, do they still do that?—because the coding will have been covered. What will become of the pictures that we’ve posted to metaphoric “walls” or Instagram? Even the ones from Photobucket or Flixster or Fotolog have a lifespan. We don’t secure them into physical albums anymore, but save them on our phones and computers and cloud servers. What will our children look at? What will their children look at?
A few nights ago, I uncovered photographs of my ancestors from the late 1800s and early 1900s. They’d been kept in an envelope with a letter that told me who each of them were. My great-great-great grandchildren won’t know who I was, because my internet pages will be long gone. This article I’m writing won’t exist and it will seem like nothing had ever actually taken place. The social and familial amnesia will eventually take over.
Was there a world before social media? Maybe barbershops? Or beauty salons where blue-haired ladies in rocking chairs spread the daily gossip about husbands and neighbors and naughty children? Passed notes? Bathroom walls? Diaries read between friends? Secret societies?
Yes, there were books before the world of the internet. Yes, there were people who carved into walls and told stories that were passed on and on and on like a game of telephone through the generations. But those, for the most part, still exist.
It’s sad to think that our thoughts over the past decade won’t make their way into our own histories.