Sunday, 8 May 2011

Online Legacy

Believe it or not, this is post number 100!  Wow.  I just love round numbers and celebrating milestones, don't you?  And when they come together, even better.

Today is Mothers' Day and I could not help but notice the outpouring of love and affection on Facebook.  Yes, right after talking to my mom (along with my sisters) on the phone this morning, that's where I headed.   Visiting there more often than before these days,  and have come to realize a thing or two.

For example, the other day when this guy passed on, having committed a horrible and atrocious act (murder-suicide), folks took to his FB page to comment (read: vent and curse).  It was something to behold. I stood from a distance and watched.  The posters started turning on each other as they took sides  - no holds (nor language) barred.  Finally, about 500+ comments later, the page went down. 

After telling her about an experience I'd had shortly after starting my more frequent visits to FB, my lil sis gave me a bit of heads-up.  I'd commented on a post from a friend and someone else made another comment disagreeing.  On top of that, she added a term that, when interpreted, was essentially dismissive.   And I'm thinking: "I don't even know you?! Why would you do that?"  Lil sis 'warned' that, even in that space where you have mutual friends, some people just don't include care in their responses.  There is not always that civility that we have come to know and love. 

I know.  I've talked about this some, a few posts back.  On the whole matter of our online presence, however, it used to be that we had just this “version” of life to consider – our offline selves. Now, what happens to our online selves when we die? All that information remains “out there”, in blogs, tweets, professional and social networking sites and the like.  Depending on the content, some of it may continue to be helpful to others – inspiring, educational etc. – other parts, not so much.  In any case, in a kind of ironic twist, it lives on.  This may give insight into why many of us create something online in the first place.  It gives us a space to create that which is uniquely us; something that will outlive us and something by which we will (hopefully) be remembered.

Interestingly, however, it also creates an opportunity for others to do what they will with that online legacy or memory.  Where there is free access, free will reigns.  And, given the multiplicity of degrees of separation, especially when exacerbated by the thick wall of anonymity, comments can and do get downright insensitive, vicious and vitriolic.  Such is the nature of this beast that emerges in these situations.  It sinks its teeth into the jugular and rips you apart, simply because it has the means, the motive and the opportunity; sometimes, simply because it can. 

Users of these spaces will quickly realize that they are not controlled environments – in the truest sense.  There are privacy settings, yes.  However, unless we wish to log in and talk only with ourselves, every connection we make constitutes a conscious act of inviting a “whole other person” into your life.  Persons come with their own beliefs, values, biases etc.,  which are not always in sync with ours.  And, as offline, we do not have control over what people think and say.  The natural human tendency is to respond to comments - especially defamatory ones – made about us and those we love.  We can easily, therefore, find ourselves in a quagmire no less agonizing and fruitless than trying to herd cats!   

Well, this greater frequency of exchanges has been enlightening.  Still, there have also been some very favourable moments as well.  (More about those in another post.)  Suffice it to say, I've found a few sweet spots on FB...


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