I admit it. I’ve probably missed out–entirely–on the commercial possibilities of the internet. It was the single biggest thing that’s come along in my lifetime, and with some kind of business or technical savvy, it could have been a gold mine. It still is, probably, but I’m lacking in the inclination to figure out just how that might work. I set up a wireless router tonight and feel like I accomplished something. But somebody had to figure out this stuff once upon a time, and they’re probably very glad they did.
But what I haven’t missed out on is the internet’s creative and archival possibilities. The contents of this blog–which has been a labor of love over the past fourteen months– will outlive me, and I like that feeling. No, I don’t relish the thought of dying one day, but if I walked out my door and got run over by a bus this evening, there’s a good chunk of my words that would still live on. And some photos, too, like the one above. It was taken as the sun was setting on Martha’s Vineyard, and I was taking a ferry back to the mainland.
My ancestors, over thousands and thousands of years, didn’t have an opportunity to share their stories, their dreams, and their very lives in a medium like this. I have three grandparents who live only in my memories, and before that, ancestrally speaking, there’s just nothing. To me, that’s very unfortunate, because any little scrap of information about where they lived and how they lived would be nothing short of fascinating to me.
I’m taking this opportunity, then, to communicate not with the world I’m living in, but with the world that will be, someday. And whether I’m around to see any of it or not, I’ve already submitted lots of my personal stories into this medium that is still growing and evolving. But for every person like me–who appreciates this opportunity and wants to seize it as fully as possible–there are hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, of people who won’t bother. They’ll all pass on, eventually, and once they do, their existence will be contingent upon those who knew them in life. And the shelf life of human memories isn’t very long, at all.
I can count, thanks to WordPress’ data figures, how many people are seeing this digital content in my lifetime. That’s interesting, and I’m always humbled whenever somebody finds any of this and likes a post or leaves a comment behind. I wouldn’t like being ignored in life. But that’s not my real aim as I’m typing this out on my computer, on a Friday night in August of 2012. No, I want to reach somebody who hasn’t yet been conceived. Or the child who will grow up thinking that the internet, like electricity and indoor plumbing, has always existed. I’m here to tell that person it wasn’t always this way.
I’ve written about owning records and having photographs developed, things that already seem like relics from another age. I’m a digital immigrant, meaning that I lived a good many years without email and social networking and the ever-present Google. And life was just fine without them, but the way things are moving now, unless something is on the internet, it’s as if it never existed in the first place.
So perhaps it’s vanity on my part, but I want to document my largely 20th century life, for consumption in the 21st century and beyond. I’ve heard it said that the internet is forever, and I hope that’s true, because I’m well aware that I won’t be.
And thanks for reading this, to whoever you are and whenever you stumbled upon this URL.