Death of the Time-Capsule

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Remember the days before life was forever chronicled in an Internet Archive?

Recently, I came to the realization that nearly everything I do isn’t ever going away. Nearly every typo and heat-of-the-moment remark remains permanently stored — and indexed! — on search engines and social Web2.0 websites.

I wonder what my kids will think.

Over 14mm photos are uploaded to Facebook a day, with over 100,000 of them video. Twitter passed the 1Bn tweet mark a month or so ago, and though this blog has only existed for less than a year, it features over 25 posts.

Yes yes, I know: 25 posts pales in comparison to the Tumblratti’s diligence or ego-bloggers’ persistence; but, consider that  you can probably pick out only a dozen or so experiences from you childhood that had any significant bearing in your life. Further, only half of those would be worth mentioning in your [auto]biography. Now, we  share it all.

In kindergarten we assembled a time-capsule. Though it’s decades later and I’m near certain my teacher and classmates have long forgot about it, I remember the care and thought that went into selecting our objects and writing our messages. The exercise forced us to take stock about what’s important to communicate to future generations. In effect, we editorialized.

Nowadays, we inundate ourselves with lifestreams. And though every once in a while we unpack, sort, and sift through our user-generated monsters, in the moment, I don’t think we really take stock of every little piece of ourselves that we share– much less how they shape that beast. Now, the capsule is a timeline.

The implications are far too numerous to explore here; after all, this is just another moment on a blog.

(Too Many) Variations on a Theme

It’s great that people blog– I just wish they’d stop saying the same thing.

Through school, students write papers to demonstrate subject knowledge, less so to articulate original thought. Old habits die hard, people start blogging, and in this age of instant worldwide publishing, we end up chewing on a lot of cud.

It’s not that people are boring, stupid, or have nothing to say– (though, that’s debatable…) Years of response-based writing inclines people to offer reactions than articulate their own, original ideas.

It’s much easier to write reactions than create ideas and be wrong. Save nothing of the social anxieties for being wrong, describing new ideas is a hard thing to do.

People tend to follow the path of least resistance and thus the blogosphere saturates itself with commentary. And, since the blogosphere moves with such great velocity, it’s near impossible to keep track of everything that’s been said. 

Unfortunately, all contributions — and I use that term loosely — are indexed and compiled into the same channel. We call it “Google”, and the signal-to-noise ratio goes up. Way up.

Responses typically fall into certain categories. (Ask anyone who grades papers or reads hundreds of blogs.) With blogging, there’s just more. It seems more people are interested in demonstrating knowledge than contributing new thought.

My theory is that this happens subconsciously. Years of response-based education create this need– it’s how we were graded by our superiors and evaluated by our peers. People need to show that they know something.

There’s no problem with that, except that this need generates millions of blog posts. In result, we saturate our knowledge space and make it near impossible to wade through.