The Digital Dark Age: Preserving Personal Narrative

I’m rethinking everything now. The loyal mirror on the wall has shattered along with the world it once reflected and I’m intrigued. Uprooted, unsure of what this means, but curious.

For starters, I’m done with naively buying into the notion of online data invincibility. Of letting the all-powerful web store my life history instead of printing my entries in neatly bound books for my posterity. Of believing, like all peoples of powerful cities who believe their empire could never fail, that the internet will be true forever. That my Facebook updates, Flickr streams, and blog posts will not be built in vain. That digitally speaking, a part of me will always exist.

The truth is, I want my narrative to survive. I want these blog posts, these photos, these life moments clicked into status updates preserved, and not for strangers, acquaintances, and even friends. I want them saved, protected, and archived for my children and grandchildren. That’s what I care about, and making sure it happens is my new focus.

Because the truth is, the internet will forget us. Facebook does have a shelf life. Its historical data is not written in stone, and while I think we have the smarts to preserve it with long-term storage, our desire to do so seems lacking. Maybe it’s because we are too busy. I know I am. Taking the time to make a simple print out of several dozen letters to my husband, or the contents of this blog, seems daunting. But unless I want to be part of the prophesied Digital Dark Age, maybe I will trade an hour of House of Turquoise and fire up the printer.

Creating a historical hardcopy is not the only way to archive our past but it’s a start. There are of course many blog-to-book publishing sites, self-publishing and archiving gurus, and ideas about which technology will stand the test of time. But for me for now, I will choose a few of the most precious parts of my history that I want to hold in my hands and start there. Like writing longhand in my journal more often, printing baby photos of my children still stuck in a harddrive, and printing years of private epiphanies scattered in word documents.  After that, I’ll backup, gather and organize my data into folders, cull the clutter, and print and store in multiple formats.

John Ruskin once said, “When we build, let us think we build for forever.” I like that. We don’t have to become the digital dark ages, or a civilization whose records become lost or unreadable due to lack of attention. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m curious and I’m rethinking everything. Including how important it is to preserve my personal narrative with my posterity, and the best way to go about doing it.

2 Comments

  1. Veronica Frazier on 06/27 at

    Excellent point. It’s starting to make me wonder as well. Albeit hard copies have stood the test of time, security in preservation is growing more meaningful as the quality of bequeathed guidance becomes more apparent.

  2. Wendy Jones on 08/13 at

    I have not been much online in the past few months, but what a delight to read and chew on your latest blog posts. You are amazing and an inspiration, Melanee!

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