The desire to be remembered is both elemental and universal. Since time immemorial oral histories, diaries, memoirs and more recently, photographs and video have been used to preserve the memories of their authors. Today, we collect and curate our memorabilia more extensively than ever before. By doing this we not only preserve our memories, but in addition our online activity is actually recording present-day living.
Andy Warhol was once noted for saying “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” In his 2013 TED Talk Your Online Life, Permanent as a Tattoo, Futurist Juan Enriquez posits, what if Warhol had that backwards? What if, due to our online activity, all we get is 15 minutes of anonymity? It’s an interesting premise and one well worth examining.
Enriquez calls our digital footprint ‘electronic tattoos’. Like permanent designs on our skin, our online activity tells a very detailed and intimate story of our lives. The main difference, however, is that electronic tattoos will outlive our physical bodies.
Traditional preservation methods have allowed the storyteller to tell his story in his own time and his own way. Now big data collected from our tens of thousands of online interactions permits those who have access to them to make decisions about us in real time. This has never happened at any other time in history. Our digital footprint is constantly being analysed and the data used to provide information about us for job and college applications, dating prospects, even shopping experiences, amongst a plethora of other purposes.
And no matter our caution, facial recognition software like Face.com purchased by Facebook in 2012, have databases with over 18 billion faces and allows our identification through photos potentially captured by third parties in public spaces. All this is recorded and potentially accessible forever.
With this in mind, Enriquez encourages us to follow these timeless lessons:
- Take care in what you post
- Don’t go looking too far into the past of those you love
- Remember the purpose of your posts
- Don’t “fall in love with your own reflection”
At the intersection of the need for privacy and the desire to be remembered lies the wisdom of knowing what we want to be remembered for and the discipline of leaving only that as our digital tattoo. With technology now active in people’s’ lives from birth, today’s challenge is to use this wisdom for ourselves. We need to teach the value of discretion and privacy as foresight to our families and to those who are unwise in this regard.
Remember- think before you post! Be wary of the digital legacy you leave…