One of the women coming to She’s Geeky pointed me to this article that she wrote about Digital Tatoo’s. I think it is a good metaphor for all the stuff we put out there online particularly when we are younger. Interestingly although I was “on” the internet from 1995 when I started college I never had any web presence until 2001 when I did my first ever public talk that ended up on the web. By then I was ready for my web identity to be formed but up until then I was quite conscious of not talking in any public forums or posting things online.
It is a good read and highlights where her thinking went after reading Clay Shriky’s Gin, Television and Social Surplus (I haven’t read it I heard him talk about it on a podcast).
On a more serious note, the generation coming up now is the first one to have the ability to publicly record whatever they feel like recording. While this is wonderful, it also gives me pause. This upcoming generation will be the first to cut it’s teeth on this issue and frankly I don’t envy them. There are a few things (aw come on, we all have ‘em) that I might have written about, or been passionate about at 18 that I might not want publicly available at 35, or 50. Much of our growth as people and thinkers comes from trying out new ideas and making some mistakes. For most of us, this growth is preserved only in the memories of those close to us, or in letters, and diaries boxed up in the garage. What we publish digitally though is again like a tattoo, it sticks around, publicly, forever. There is a reason most of us are discouraged from getting tattoos until we reach adulthood. The tattoo of our favorite cartoon character might have been awesome at 19, but not so awesome later.
I hope that the web encourages a plethora of public thought and expression. It also behooves us to have an awareness of the public nature and longevity of what we put out there lest we are left with the digital equivalent of that tattoo we thought we wanted, but didn’t.