Last week my family celebrated my daughters first birthday. It was a wonderful endcap to a challenging, fulfilling, and wonderful first year of fatherhood. Transitional moments and milestones tend to put me in pensive moods so I’ve been reflecting on the subject of permanence and longevity. Will I be remembered after I’m gone? How will I be remembered? How will my daughter see me, my work, my life?
I’m a dedicated reader of biographies. As a writer I think good biographies are monumentally useful because going deeply into a subject is a critical boon towards creating believable characters with depth and realism. Biographers use numerous sources to bring their subjects to life and give the reader a hopefully realistic portrait,the most useful sources are the subjects own words in the form of journals and letters.
Leonardo Da Vinci was a constant journal writer. He carried a notebook with him at all times and constantly jotted down notes and observation. His notebooks are a unique view into his mind. Napoleon Bonaparte was a prolific letter writer. The Bonaparte foundation has over 40,000 letters documenting his life in often minute detail. In the fantasy writers world most of what we know about H.P. Lovecraft, Clarke Ashton Smith, and Robert Howard comes from the large volume of correspondence between the writers. Letters and journals are invaluable windows into the lives of the past.
I’ve kept a journal for the past two years. Last week I was rewarded by thumbing through last years worth of writing and coming across the entry I made on the day my daughter was born. I had forgotten about it, honestly I must of sat down and jotted it during the hectic hours of my wifes early labor. Reading it a year later brought back vivid memories of that wonderful day. I hope that I can hold on to my journal so I can share the thoughts I had on that day with my daughter when she grows up.
All of this brings me back to the pensive meditation on permanence I mentioned above. How will I be remembered. With journaling a dying art and lettering six feet under, all that is left of us is the profanity laced, meme poisoned, digital trail of social media. With this in mind I searched out my old LiveJournal and MySpace accounts. I have a good memory so I managed to unlock both accounts. After a few minutes of reading the horror that poured out of my young adult mind I deleted both accounts. Next I went through early Facebook from 2006 when I first created that account. Once again, horror. Nothing that would get my acceptance to Harvard rescinded, but definitely filled with embarrassing stupidity. Looking at my posts from 2007-2010 one would be justified in having concerns about the health of my liver.
A decade ago we used social media differently. It wasn’t so serious, so scrutinized, so manufactured. It was off the cuff jokes, jibes at friends, stupid pictures, and invitations to go drinking. We set up obnoxious auto playing songs on our MySpace profiles, assaulting visitors with noise and crappy HTML templates. It was new, fun, and nobody really thought about how long the crap we posted would be floating around in digital space.
Now I have a crippling fear that when I die everything about me will come from my old social media profiles. My descendants will remember me from idiotic posts about Pabst Blue Ribbon tall-cans and rants on how much I hated Tarantino’s latest movie. Some social historian will dig up the stupidest crap and I will be immortalized by the digital equivalent of the vulgar graffiti found in Pompeii.
But isn’t that the real me? Isn’t that what social media was supposed to be. An open community bringing us together, being ourselves in the digital space. Maybe. But, personally I rather stick to pen and paper, letter and journal.