Sunday, November 30, 2014

Digital Media- Making All of Our Words Last Words

I've often imagined what the last thing I will say will be. Will it be inspiring and heard by many, or will it fall on deaf ears due to its mediocrity? I certainly want to say something like the character Roy Batty's last words in the science fiction film "Blade Runner."

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion... I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... time to die."

Here, he uses his last words to paint vivid pictures of the wonders he has seen in the universe. I, on the other hand, certainly do not want to speak last words that resemble those of Pancho Villa:

"Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something."

I started thinking about how my last words would be communicated, either through writing or speech or through digital media, and I have chosen to examine the last of these three. I have written previously about how digital media can be terrifyingly permanent and can be lost in abundance. I would like to examine this in a new light, particularly in the context of Facebook. I came across this page which discusses what happens when a Facebook user dies. Apparently, unless specifically requested to do so, Facebook does not delete the pages of its users if they pass away. In this way, all of the words we write on Facebook or any other social media site are our last words. Once we leave the world, so to speak, they remain. This may be a morbid thought, but it creates a fascinating idea that we may be writing and taking pictures for what will become our own memorials. In fact, Facebook may include pages from more deceased users than live ones, according to the aforementioned article, by the year 2100. The permanence of these pages, which eventually become memorials, gives us a great amount of power. Now, we have the ability to carefully choose what words will be read by those who come after us. We may decide which pictures people can see and what amusing anecdote may describe our personality in the best light. Essentially, we can both ensure that we will not be forgotten and choose how others will remember us. We have been given an incredible power, and we must learn to integrate it into our lives, because every word, sentence, and picture of a drunken pirate we post on Facebook will be left to the world after we leave it. As Randall Munroe, the author of the linked page, said,

"The basic pieces that make up a human life don't change. We've always eaten, learned, grown, fallen in love, fought, and died. In every place, culture, and technological landscape, we develop a different set of behaviors around these same activities. Like every group before us, we're learning how to play those same games on our particular playing field. We're developing, through sometimes messy trial and error, a new set of social norms for dating, arguing, learning, and growing on the internet. Sooner or later, we'll figure out how to mourn."

We not only live our lives on the internet, but we leave our lives on the internet once we die. So, the next time you decide to post something on social media, consider not only how you are using this digital media to live your life, but how you are using it to leave a memorial of your life for others.

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