The little apple peelings fall from my daughter’s mouth. She chews on the white inside of the apple, but doesn’t like the tougher red skin, so she lets it fall from her mouth to my parents’ sofa cushion, a little pile of red apple parts at her feet. It’s a cute video, already three years old on YouTube, one of many toddler videos on my father’s account.
And I think of 2050. Will my son and daughter pull those little clips up for their kids? “Here’s what I looked like when I was 2, back in 2007. Watch how I ate this apple.”
There are no moving images from my childhood, but there are some photos. My parents have very few still shots of their earliest days. And their parents, well, there’s virtually nothing.
One perk of today is that our digital database offers us a way to catalogue our memories and our children’s lives. What if that had been true years ago? Can you imagine if you could call up video clips of your grandmother when she was 3 and holding her parents’ hands as she walked into church in an Easter dress in 1916, or your mother waving at you from her first day of school? How beautiful would that be?
But that amazing power is not something to take lightly. I think of the fact that everything we post on the Web has a life of its own.
What does that mean to us? And what will the Web be in years to come? It’s hard to say, but it won’t be what it is today. I feel pretty sure of that. No, it will blow our minds.
Yes, there are all the cute childhood videos we post now, but think of a parent’s teenage keg stand photo plastered permanently on the Web, a virtual tattoo as impossible to erase as ink under skin. Some children will see that side of their parents online in years to come, making their mother or father cringe about past decisions.
What’s often overlooked is that our Web identity can be a hard thing to change. For instance, if the worst thing about you is online, it’s likely to draw more attention than the best thing you’ve done. That’s the nature of humans. Bad things are generally more titillating. So, more people will click on it, which means it will rise to the top of search requests related to you. That means the worst thing about you is often the first thing people learn about you online.
There was a good article in the July 19 New York Times Magazine by Jeffrey Rosen called, “The Web means the end of forgetting.”
He spoke of possibilities ahead. For instance, he spoke of the great advances in facial recognition technology. We may eventually be able to search the Web by people’s faces, not just their names.
“People will be able to snap a cell phone picture (or video) of a stranger, plug the images into Google and pull up all tagged and untagged photos of that person that exist on the Web,” wrote Rosen.
He noted that in the nearer future, our credit scores may not be our only numeric values available on the Web. He writes that social network aggregator search engines may peruse social sites, political contributions, blog posts, videos, real estate listings and photo albums, providing ratings for people “not on their creditworthiness, but on their trustworthiness as good parents, good dates, good employees, good baby sitters or good insurance risks.”
Perhaps none of that will be true. But the risks of posting a lot of personal information online are pretty clear. I know that when my children are old enough to start with this stuff, I will be utterly behind the times when it comes to common technology — I already am. But I can sniff trouble pretty well. And I want to teach them to smell it, too. If anything, I will want my children to remember that their future employer can access their lives online, just as well as their friends. So can all sorts of questionable people I’d never want in their lives.
I’ll give all the caveats, perhaps to no avail. We’ll see how that goes.
But I’ll surely click back on those old videos of sweet little people, glad to have that record. I hope that apple image will still be there many years from now for my daughter’s children and grandchildren to laugh at. That’s a bright side of the digital age.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
The future? I personally know of people that have been threatened with job termination as a result of their Facebook accounts.
If you like to have a wild party life afterwork that's okay,just don't post the pictures of it online.