The Permanency of a Digital Legacy

Around the time of her 80th birthday, my Grandmother decided to write down her memoirs. Not for publication or as some sort of formal biography, but simply as a keepsake for the family. Having been born in 1919, she lived through a time of major changes and, whether kin or not, it’s hard to not find her stories fascinating. After reading them more recently, I began to wonder about my own legacy. Sure, it seems a bit morbid, but it’s hard not to wonder what you will leave behind after you’re gone.

That’s when I realized that, unlike my Grandmother, much of my life and experiences have already been recorded in perhaps an even more permanent format than ink and paper. Yes, I’m talking about the internet.

Over the years, I’ve had multiple blogs, some for school and some for personal use; social media accounts, ranging from the now-dated MySpace to the ever-popular Facebook; accounts at numerous sites, from shopping to gaming; papers or pieces published in online formats; and of course, any bit of local news with my name in it can also be found in the great online archive. So you see, if years from now my ancestors decide to look into who I was, they need go no further than the nearest computer.

Certainly there’s something less romantic about memoirs from the digital age, but perhaps the most frightening thing to take away from this is the permanency of all our online (and offline) actions.

In 2010, Twitter announced that the Library of Congress would be digitally archiving the tweets of all the site’s users since its inception in 2006. Phew, what a relief– years from now my ancestors can view my attempts at being witty with a 140 character limit. What exactly will they learn from this officially documented data? Well, they’ll find out I’m a bit of a complainer, not all that funny, and kind of boring. Of course, while sifting through the thousands of trivial tweets, they may come across some of my activities and opinions– you know, the kind of things one actually puts in a memoir.

But what about my other social media accounts? Well, I’m not sure if the Library of Congress has any claims of ownership on my Facebook, but then again there’s no telling what sticks around after you pass on. In fact, this has actually become a major concern for individuals– what happens to one’s online accounts after they die?

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter actually have policies set in place to deal with this and, with the proper proof, loved ones can delete the accounts of the deceased. In some cases, they can also choose to memorialize the account instead. Other accounts, such as those on PayPal or Gmail, also have systems in place to deal with such issues.

To make things a bit easier, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to make a Digital Will in which they leave instructions on the proper steps to be taken with digital accounts after the person’s death. There are also services, such as Legacy Locker, that store all of the information– passwords, usernames–for loved ones to access in the case of death.

So sure, there are plenty of steps to take in order to clear away some of your digital disarray, but there’s no way to completely erase your online presence. Then there’s always the fact that many people, myself included, don’t really care much what happens to those accounts after our passing. I mean, I’m dead and gone, what do I care if Amazon.com still has my order history on record. But then again, I also don’t have anything to hide…do you?

And that’s what it comes down to: our lives are out there, on the internet, and with just a little bit of digging, any number of things can be found out about us. And the scariest part is the permanency of it all.

So here I am, writing my memoirs every time I tweet, or comment on Facebook, or write a blog post. Look at me, I think I just wrote a whole chapter of my memoirs right here and now.

So what do you think? Is your digital legacy something you would like to try to erase, or just another chapter in your memoirs?

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Facebook & I have changed our relationship status to ‘It’s Complicated’

I know I’m not the only one with complaints about the latest Facebook changes. Everywhere I go, I hear co-workers, friends, and even complete strangers grumbling over the supposedly improved site. In a recent Mashable poll, nearly 74% of users said they hated the changes. And now we long for happier times…

Sometimes I feel like Facebook and I are in some sort of bad relationship. Facebook is crowding me, making me feel claustrophobic, not allowing me to have a life outside of it. Facebook is trying to provide me with everything I need, but rather than finding this convenient, I find it needy and constricting.

Everywhere I go, I find sites asking me to sign in via Facebook. But sometimes, I just want to keep things separate. I just want to be able to play my Words with Friends without checking in with Facebook. I feel like screaming at the site: I don’t need your permission to have a good time! Nor do I want to share every single detail about myself with you. I’ve told you my favorite movies and books, my likes and dislikes– isn’t that enough? Must I fan every product I’ve ever used, every actor I’ve ever watched, and every store I’ve ever shopped at? Stop being so pushy about it! The pressure in this relationship is overwhelming. I can’t handle it.

Of course, the site’s latest changes include updated friends list, news headlines, and feed subscription. Not to mention the pesky blue corner added to updates that are specifically selected to fit your interest (‘You don’t know me, Facebook!’…the two of us may have to settle this on Maury or something).

And worse yet, it’s reported that there are more changes to come. Facebook, don’t go trying to change yourself to fix an already broken relationship. Sure, I don’t visit you nearly as often, but it’s because we’ve grown apart. I’ve found other sites, like Twitter and Tumblr and while I swear their just occasional pastimes, you jealously seems to be getting the best of you. What am I supposed to say? That they mean nothing to me? Why must I feel so much shame for cheating on my social networking site?!

Plus, changing everything about yourself, Facebook, just makes me even more hesitant to keep you in my life. I never asked you to get a makeover or change your features, you did that all on your own, so don’t go blaming me when you start losing users.

And you know what, while we’re on the subject, stop judging me with your side advertisements. Personally, I think my teeth are white enough, thank you. And how dare you assume that I’m always “looking for something to do in *insert town here*.”

Let me live my life without needing to touch base with you every minute. Sometimes I just don’t want to keep you updated. You don’t need to know everything about what I do or who I see or where I am. Facebook: I think it’s time I started seeing other social networking sites.

Once, I felt like I knew you. I felt like we really connected (and that you really helped me stay connected). Now, you feel distant. You puzzle me– with all your new features and confusing ‘aesthetic appeal.’ Weren’t we happy before? What happened to us?

Bottom line, I think Facebook and I might need to change our relationship status to It’s Complicated.

Looking for a good deed of the day?

Looking to feel a bit better about yourself?

Looking to justify the countless hours you’ve spent on the computer with a bit of selflessness?

Or maybe you just want to give back.

If any one of those statements applies to you, I suggest you follow this link to the Greater Good Network where, with just a click of the mouse, and no cost to you, you can:

a. Sponsor a donation of food to help stop world hunger

b. Sponsor a donation of funds for free mammograms to find and treat the earliest symptoms of breast cancer

c. Sponsor the donation of food and care for rescued animals

d. Help provide free meals to down and out veterans

e. Sponsor the donation of free therapy for children with autism

f. Help provide children in need with proper healthcare

g. Fight illiteracy by sponsoring the donation of free books

h. Help protect wildlife habitats

i. All of the above

 

And all it takes from you is a simple mouse click. No costs, no signing up for anything, no strings attached.

While you’re there, feel free to sign any number of petitions that are also helping to make our world a better place.

Who knew giving back could be so simple?

And for those on the go, don’t fret– There’s an app for that.

 

On Amazon, E-Books have the Edge

July 1995:

Amazon.com opens its virtual doors and begins selling hardcover and paperback books.

November 2007:

With the introduction of Amazon’s revolutionary e-book reader, The Kindle, the website also began selling corresponding e-books.

July 2010:

Kindle e-books sales surpass hardcover book sales on the website.

And now, customers are purchasing more Kindle e-books than both hardcover and paperback books combined.

A mere four years after its introduction, the Kindle has become such a popular format that its book sales have surpassed a traditional medium whose popularity lasted thousands of years.

With over 950,000 books to choose from, 790,00 of which are $9.99 or less, users have embraced this new technology. In addition, there are millions of free, out-of-copyright books available for download. The Kindle’s success continues to show rapid expansion, with more than 175,000 books added to the Kindle Store within just the last 5 months.

In response to the Kindle’s swift success, Jeff Bezos, the Founder and CEO of Amazon.com said:

“Customers are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books. We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly – we’ve been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years.”

Marketing under the mantra “Buy Once, Read Everywhere,” millions have turned to Kindle’s and other e-book readers as their primary source of Literature. Realizing the success within the market, and understanding the need to compete with these tech-savvy inventions, bookstores such as Barnes & Noble have introduced their own e-book readers. In November 2009, Barnes and Noble introduced the Nook in an attempt to counter Amazon’s Kindle success.

Other tablet devices, such as Apple’s iPad and multiple smart-phone devices, have also hit the market providing similar services.

There is no denying the convenience of e-readers: they allow you to take a multitude of books with you without all the hassle of carrying/lugging, the books are less expensive, they’re light weight, text can be magnified, and numerous other positive attributes. And yet, there remains a niche loyal to the traditional paper and ink method of reading (myself included). After all, no matter how technologically advanced these machines become, it’s impossible to completely replicate the experience of reading a good old-fashion book.

Here are a few more Kindle milestones:

  • Since April 1, 2011, for every 100 print books sold by Amazon, 105 Kindle e-books have been sold (not including the free Kindle books, either).
  • So far in 2011, Amazon has sold more than 3x as many Kindle books as they did during the same period of the previous year.
  • Less than a year after the introduction of the UK Kindle, Amazon.co.uk is selling more Kindle books than hardcover at a rat of more than 2 to 1.

And here are some Amazon.com Fun Facts:

  • The first book sold on Amazon.com was Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.
  • Amazon.com opened their DVD/Video store in November 1998.
  • In 1999, Time Magazine names Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos “Person of the Year.”
  • In October 2001, Amazon introduces the “Look inside the book” feature on their website.
  • Amazon.com is also responsible for the operation of imdb.com.

Twitter’s Timeline

In March, Twitter celebrated its 5th birthday, and my-my, how far it has come.

Despite its short lifespan, there’s no denying the site’s maturation. From changes in design and popularity, to celebrating memorable events such as the first tweet from space, here are some of the highlights of Twitter’s half-decade of existence:

March 2006: Jack Dorsey creates Twitter. On March 31, he publishes the first tweet ever, which says, “just setting up my twttr.”

Just as an interesting comparison, it was on March 10, 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell spoke into the first telephone. His words were: “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

April 2007: Twitter becomes its own company.

November 2008: Twitter passes the 1 billion tweet mark!

July 2009: Twitter is welcomed into the English language, being officially recognized by Collins English Dictionary as both a noun and a verb.

October 2009: Less than a year after passing the 1 billion tweet mark, Twitter passes the 5 billion mark. Talk about growth!

January 2010: NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, on board the International Space Station, communicates from space via Twitter.

July 2010: Twitter introduced the “Suggestions for You”  feature, offering personalized suggestions of users that may interest you.

August 2010: Twitter surpasses MySpace in the number of unique monthly visitors.

April 2011: The new twitter homepage is introduced. A new and improved look calls for new features as well, including the Local Trends feature, which expands to more than 70 cities and countries.

And of course, on May 1, 2011: Twitter is all a’twitter with speculation and then confirmation of the death of terrorist Osama Bin Laden. At one point, 5,106 tweets per second are recorded. This is the third highest tweeting rate, falling behind the numbers registered during New Years ’11 in Japan and the fatal tsunami there in March.

And it seems that Twitter’s success continues to grow substantially. More and more companies, celebrities, and average individuals are hitting the site to share their 140 character opinions. As for myself, I’ve been a member since 2008 and haven’t looked back since. I still rely on Twitter for news, both of substantial quality and the fluff celebrity pieces. As for the events of this past May 1st, I actually first heard the news from Twitter. I also first heard of Michael Jackson’s death via Twitter. It’s such a convenient source for news, often providing you with the perfect amount of headline and a link to more information. I’m a big Twitter fan (as may be apparent from my ramblings), what about you? Will it live on? Or are its days numbered?