I recently discovered that messages I thought I had deleted from Facebook years ago are still quite in existence, sitting politely archived for me to find and peruse. This is that terrifying part of Facebook in particular, and social media and the internet in general. We cannot start over, our past lives have been digitally preserved, forever embalmed in servers across the country.
Ironic then, that the first movies detailing the dangers of the Internet were about erasure' movies like The Net
, where the protagonist suddenly no longer exists, where her whole past has been subsumed with another's. Our fears, it seems, were unfounded. We do not need to worry about being erased. We must instead fear never being forgotten.
But, perhaps, this is all a blessing in disguise. How can we fault a future politician for whatever scandalous photographs of their youth exist when, so it seems, anyone with a social media account has a few of these. The general public thought losing hard copies meant data would be so easily erased. Little did they think that it actually meant data could be everywhere at once: accessible at any time and any place once it had been put onto the grid.
Terrifying, isn't it? But maybe it doesn't have to be. The ability to pick up and restart is a beautiful thing, I'll admit. It's tempting to start over somewhere no one knows your past transgressions. Where no one knows what you've done, or what you are possibly capable of doing. But the flaw in this belief is that we must erase pieces of ourselves in order to fit in as accomplished adults' that we never went out late, or drank champagne sitting on a toilet, that we never inhaled or kissed a boy before the man we married, that we never spoke in a way that we might find offensive now or believed the world to be different than how it may truly be.
No, I say, instead of lamenting the loss of the ability to reset, we should instead celebrate the loss of trying desperately to wipe out the memories of our youth by the time we reach adulthood, whatever age that might mean. Wouldn't it be better, not to reset our lives, but to instead accept that every person made the mistakes that lead them to become the people they are now? That the transgressions of their past are what make them the fantastic, multifaceted beings of their present?
The Embarrassing Internet
The Internet has reshaped who we are as people. Not because we no longer can focus, or because we need constant stimulation or require instant gratification. No, because we can always go back now. Our imperfect memories may now always be supplemented by the digital paper trail we have created --Amina Mae Safi | Photo: Archives | Embarrassing, Internet, Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, Privacy,
The Internet has reshaped who we are as people. Not because we no longer can focus, or because we need constant stimulation or require instant gratification. No, because we can always go back now. Our imperfect memories may now always be supplemented by the digital paper trail we have created, now that we have whole generations of men and women who, in a way, grew up online.
But perhaps, now that we are all aware of this, the next generation will be smarter, more conscientious. Perhaps, as indicated by recent studies, they will be more careful to curate their social media pages and their presence online. In a way, though, I hope not.
Just because we have changed and moved on from the people we were, does not mean we must erase them. Their experiences, their trials, their mistakes, their triumphs, are what made us who we are, different though we may now be. Perhaps, in the long run, it may be psychologically healthier as a society to stop fearing who we were and start celebrating how our darkest moments often give us the greatest potential for growth and understanding.