History: A Question On How We Preserve Our Personal History and How History Books Will Be Written In The Future?
What Will Happen To Our Social Media Lives When Social Media Dies?
I’m a photographer and because I am, I take a lot of precautions to ensure images are securely saved. I save the raw files (images straight from the memory card), I save the DNG files (digital negatives), and I save the final edits (the pictures after I’m done editing them.)
Those images are saved onto an external hard drive. Then, those images get backed up onto another external hard drive. My iPhone photos get backed up to the iCloud and to my dropbox account. I haven’t been able to commit myself to delete my Facebook account (I always just deactivate it) because I haven’t backed up all the photos that I have uploaded onto Facebook, otherwise, Facebook would not be a part of my life.
In essence, I’m preserving my personal history for whoever may be interested in my life long after I’m gone; presumptive, yes.
When I journal, I note the date, the time, and the location of where I am writing. I do this so that when I look back to read an entry I can fully envision how I felt, and see what was going on in my life then. I save receipts for expensive electronics, limited-edition sneakers, books, and other things that have some sort of value; sentimental and monetary. It provides me with a nice reminder of a certain day of my life when I come across it down the road.
I’ve realized that I like to document everything that I do, see, and eat (without knowing it, you may also.)
There was a time when I don’t know if I didn’t care, but I never asked to hear stories of my mom and dad from when they were growing up. I never asked them what their lives were like before me nor, did they ever really share any stories themselves willingly; maybe it’s a cultural thing.
However, now that I’m older with both a niece and a nephew, and realizing that they are 2nd generation born in America, I now find myself asking for those stories from my mom. Stories for my sister and me to share with her kids. I want to be able to preserve our family’s history by passing down these accounts to my niece and nephew and maybe one day for my own kids. I hope that then, these legacies keep getting passed down from generation to generation.
It’s because of that, I feel it’s important to document everything. We’re all individuals and unique in our own rights. We all have walked down different paths in life from one another. Themes may be the same, but the journeys are always different. I feel it’s not our responsibility how future generations choose to use our stories, whether for learning purposes or out of pure curiosity, that’s up to them to decide. But who are we to withhold that option from them?
In reality, social media has turned into one big archive of our lives. It’s a documentation of the food we ate, the words we said, the outings we had, the vacations we spent, the people we’ve loved, the people we’ve lost, the babies we birthed, the birthdays we celebrated, and the list goes on.
This thought really got me thinking about how we preserve history in this day in age. Not only our own history but actual world events. E.g, COVID-19, Kobe Bryant’s death, George Floyd, the 350 wildfires across the state of California, and the other monstrosities that the year 2020 has brought us.
I remember how the events I read about in history books felt like a different world when I was a kid. I would read about how World War I & II began and ended. I read about how great empires ruled and crumpled.
What I don’t remember was what else was going on during those times in other places at the exact same moments. Where if I were to read the newspaper (or a social media post) today, I would learn about the wildfires in California while learning that Jacob Blake was shot in the back 7 times in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
But I think to myself and wonder how will this be depicted in the future of history books? As the times evolve and information becomes convenient historians research and publish new works on the history we thought we knew, but we learn we didn’t. We learn that we were never granted the full truth.
We were not taught that Christopher Columbus landed in America by mistake, or that the very first Thanksgiving celebration probably wasn’t very thankful. We didn’t learn that the land we lived on was stolen from the Native Americans. We weren’t taught with full transparency that colonialism was a bad thing.
So how will the future history books depict the current times? In an age where everyone is documenting everything, it is now that we see in full light what the injustice of our Country really is. It’s because of social media that ideas we always knew to be true are now being fully supported with the evidence of videos taken from our smartphones.
These videos are then being shared with friends, family, co-workers, and the world. This is why we have people in other countries protesting in unison with America on the death of George Floyd.
Will the history books of the future be honest now? Will the authors of those books have a place to hide the truth? Or, will those authors use the countless number of documentations to paint the truth in an even more elevated light? We now have evidence from countless numbers of perspectives to challenge these books. But why should we have to? Shouldn’t these books be written with the truth from the very beginning?
I circle back to the subtitle of this article; what happens to everything we’ve documented on social media if these companies shut down? Will our lives no longer exist without proof? Instagram started as a photography community to share images. Then, Instagram became a place to share our lives with each other, which is then evolved into a highly curated, self-promotion of our lives. Instagram has created a job category called, Social Media Influencer. People who influence us to buy a product because of the way they have marketed the use in their everyday life.
Some people, most people, still use Instagram as a basic medium to keep friends and families updated about their lives. But it’s interesting to see how those same people have also created Instagram accounts for those who can’t. They’ve created Instagram accounts for their pets and for their kids; both who are unable to post themselves. Why do we do this? These Instagram accounts seem to have replaced baby albums and family albums.
So, what happens to these accounts if Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok all decide to shut down (We’re seeing it now with Tik-Tok and Trump’s plan to ban it from the US)? Where will our memories go? Will these social media companies be obliged to archive them somewhere? Will the future create some sort of virtual Smithsonian museum that curates life in the digital age?
Obviously, I don’t have the answer to these questions. However, I encourage everyone to document everything. Whether it is through social media or analog form, just document. Preserve your accounts, not for the vanity, but because it’s important and it matters.