(Previously vaguely titled ‘Betwixt the Lines’ in 2013.)
The luxury of being able to lookup the entire history of our kind within seconds of mashing my fingertips on a piece of glass, allows me to confidently muse, “You know what? Maybe we’ve never had it better”. In many ways, I think I’m right – though I’m sure the inventors of ‘the internet’ never anticipated the volume of porn, spam and cat memes that would eventually be transmitted over their revolutionary network of interconnected computers. At least they can rest with the comforting fact that they managed to significantly change the world in their short lifespans.
Let’s face it – our life spans are as small as a single grain of sand on the beach in an evolutionary sense. We each apparently get the chance to work at making a profound impact on the world in that short space – and if you somehow manage to do it, you’ll at least be remembered for your work in a defaced Wikipedia article. Oh, didn’t you get the memo on that? Books have gone the way of the Dodo too. Reading’s all about swiping your disgusting mitts over a piece of glass while you’re sitting on the toilet.
If you’re anything like me, you might actually prefer the forest-based version of whatever you’re reading. I find myself too easily distracted by alternatively flashy and time consuming tasks that can be performed with a tablet to actually do any reading on them. E-Readers are much the same – I’d likely spend my time trying to put Doom II on it instead. And while my purchase of a hard copy might be helping to ruin forests and the natural animal habitats contained therein, at least I get something to put on my bookshelf right?
Our excitement regarding the digital frontier has resulted in a huge rush over the last two decades to move from the older methods of paper-wasting, entirely to computer based methods of getting at information. Never mind the negative environmental impact of mining the rare minerals used to make your iPhone, we saved some forests! Yay! The only reason we know about much of our history is because a physical copy existed somewhere on the Earth to be found by a new generation. We’re already having problems reading older computer discs and file formats from a decade ago – imagine what that problem’s going to be like in fifty years from now. In the future it could be like your witty cat meme never existed.
The digital black-hole is a real thing. Sure, the advent of computers and mobile technology has helped in ways we never could have conceived years ago – I just think this rush to do away with any physical copies of our work in this life is going to backfire in terms of collating our history in the future. I recently came into possession of my late Nana’s writings, most of which were typewritten, though she did have a computer. If she lived in this generation, that work simply wouldn’t exist or would possibly be on an unreadable disc. Her ancient computer was likely disposed of years ago – it may have contained many more unprinted writings that I could have attempted to retrieve today. But alas, they’re lost forever.
That harsh reality aside, the advent of turning digital has forever changed how we interact on a one-to-one basis. What was once a very personal, thought provoking, handwritten, stamped and posted letter is now an abbreviated mess of poor grammar and misspellings sent instantly alongside a myriad of blatant pyramid schemes and chain-letters. Some people probably still write physical love letters to each other, but future generations of family will likely never stumble over your loving emails when you die.
“Well thanks to me, they were right!”
In the case of my departed relative, her life was packed up and reduced into a couple of plastic storage tubs essentially waiting for me to find and pick through. Try doing that to a RAID array.
This problem obviously goes further than merely losing a pile of emails containing ‘LOL-Cats’ and shit abbreviations. The pervasiveness of mobile internet has both improved and negatively affected our lives. How many parties have you been to where the social interaction degenerates into a group of people standing around their glowing mobile phone screens? Someone once boasted to me about how the number of Instagram followers he had increased while he was standing there apparently talking to me. I have two problems with this: 1) I was apparently engaged in a actual one-on-one conversation with the person in question, and 2) WHO CARES ABOUT HOW MANY INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS YOU HAVE?!?!?!?!
I could have rebutted with the fact my anonymous Facebook side-project had 1400 followers at the time, but I digress;
In between ignored posts about being lonely or other cries for attention in between pictures of their most recent meal, people often whine on Facebook about how they’ve managed to lose a ‘lifetime’ of photos because they were stupid enough to have one digital copy. Imagine that situation but apply it to everything we’ve done in the digital age. That’s where we’re at. Clouds disappear, and so too can our ‘lives’ with them.
See! Her phone doesn’t even bother to try and auto-correct “cal”.
Instead of worrying about your online persona and stressing over whether your friends are actually ignoring you, having stared at their “Seen x:xx pm” notification for hours – just start printing everything out so your grandchildren can judge your meaningless online life as if it were your actual one.
Psst… wanna know a secret?… IT IS OUR LIVES!