In my last blog I wrote about my ten-year-old son. I don’t think anything I said was too embarassing (he did not like my rating of his baseball skills as “pretty good, but not great” and perhaps I shouldn’t have let him read that). But as this article in the Times http://tinyurl.com/2cqhe38 makes clear, the question is not whether it was OK for me to put a tiny bit of his life on the web, but rather that now it is there forever. My wife is on Facebook, which has led to her to make some nice connection — turns out an elementary school pal of hers lives five minutes from us, we have common interests, and have become friends. But while I meet with people I knew in school once every few years at an event, I really don’t have a desire to knit back to the past. At key moments in life — like leaving high school to college, or going away over the summer, I was aware of a split with friends, and we sometimes wrote, remembered each other’s addresses and phone numbers, were pleased to bump into each other. But life was also about moving on — forming new friendships — starting over. It seems my children will not have that experience. They are digitally embedded in not only their past, but whatever fragments of it others (such as their dad-who-blogs, their mom-who-facebooks) have shown the world.
This sticky past is disconcerting to me — perhaps it won’t be to them. Maybe they will be so inured to exposure that they will ignore the fact that some total stranger knows bits about their childhood. That is on a personal level — but what about historians? Should there be some massive computer that aggregates this digital scrapbook of every life, stores it so it cannot be read for a century, but then makes these tastes of life in 2010 available to future scholars? It is as if we are living in a giant Candace Fleming book — an endless scrapbook. After enough time has passed, should a future Candace be able to craft a portrait, a kind of digital mural, out of the photos, videos, anecdotes we share (or adults share for their children)?
Thinking back to my blog — email has always been the impersonal personal — simultaneously intimate and abstract. And of course so is this blog. To me I am typing facing a screen. But once I publish I am speaking to any of you who wish to read. Perhaps with blogging, like email and Facebook we as a society have not entirely figured out the rules, the balance of personal and social, the space of what is allowed and not allowed (and I am not talking about creepy lurkers and warning kids about who they should meet online). I mean just what do we share and what not — what would be OK said between two people, kept alive as long as they recall it, and what should go into the infinitely sticky digital web, there to live as long as servers run.