Thursday, August 20, 2015
Living forever in cyberspace
The fact that something can live forever in cyberspace is one of those things that's become common knowledge, at least to anyone who's spent more than a few hours or days wandering around the virtual world. Did you post something rather irreverent or perhaps a tad obscene in an obscure chat room 10 or 15 years ago? It's pretty much a sure thing that's the first thing that will pop up if a prospective employer decides to Google your name. You're busy hoping that the minutiae about your life will include innocuous highlights like the time you won the 5th grade spelling bee or some cute photos of you with your adorable 1-year-old nephew. Nope. What comes up will be an ad saying "See Criminal Record for [insert your much too common name here]" or the reject America's Funniest Home Videos of your teenage self doing something super stupid with a skateboard one of your friends posted to YouTube five years ago.
Okay, so if it's a little annoying to realize that you can stumble across the equivalent of your life's bloopers reel any time you're foolish enough to do a little ego surfing. How weird is it going to be to have that bloopers reel kicking around long after you've taken a dirt nap? Or how confusing for various casual acquaintances or long-lost high school friends when they go looking for you and find references to something you posted ten years ago, a link that claims you're now 65 years old and living in Roswell, Georgia, and a link to an obit posted by a funeral home in Billings, Montana? Which ones make sense? And how creeped out will your close friends be when Facebook sends them a reminder that today is your birthday when they know the funeral was six months ago?
Facebook does actually take into account the fact that while the Internet may be immortal, people are not. Family members can ask to have a dead person's account removed or memorialized, although going by some of the comments I've read in advice columns and elsewhere not everyone is happy with the latter option. That's not surprising. Out here in the real world some people find reminders of the deceased touching or poignant, other people become depressed or unhappy when confronted with visible memorials.
On a personal level, I'd like to hope that when I go toes up someone takes the time to go through my various accounts (blogs, Facebook, whatever) and either delete stuff or do a post warning people not to expect new content. Whether or not anyone does, of course, is something I'll never know.