Thursday, July 22, 2010

stuck with the past


A friend sent along a copy of a New York Times article addressing the fact that the past is here to stay -- most notably on youtube and Facebook where people say and show things about themselves that they learn to regret. There is no way to delete such past enjoyments or braggadocio ... you're stuck with the farm and employers, among others, are capable of holding it against you.

A salient quote:

The fact that the Internet never seems to forget is threatening, at an almost existential level, our ability to control our identities; to preserve the option of reinventing ourselves and starting anew; to overcome our checkered pasts.

So the longing -- I would call it a human longing -- to find some place in which to be naked and unfettered (even if it's only long-distance) butts up against the fact that the nakedness is selective and in some cases embarrassing: It's not the whole story and thus the 'ability to control our identities' is thrown into a cocked hat.

There is no forgiveness on the Internet, no recognition that people are honestly more interesting than their well-concocted resumes. So, if I tell you an embarrassing story about myself, you may judge that according to other things you know. But on the Internet there are few if any 'other things.'

The past is inescapable. But it is also ungraspable in any realistic sense. The past is who you were and who you are ... simultaneously. Blush or wail or congratulate yourself all you like, there is no escape.

What then is left? Intellectual or psychological analysis? Selective memory? Convenient brain farts? How can anyone control their identity when push comes to shove? And yet who doesn't try -- sometimes pretty hard -- to control that identity?

Limiting the limitless ... it's an exercise worth investigating. What nitwit thought that up?


  1. eventually people will begin to wrap their minds around what "www" means and stop putting personal stuff on the web under their own names. I have a couple of alter-egos that speak for me when Susan Cogan needs to keep her mouth shut.

  2. "I" agree! Alter-egos can go on forever on the www for all "I" care.

    "Anonymous" is therefore as good as any. Using it, "I" (an alter-ego) don't have to be clever as to figuring out an alter-ego.

    round and round the mulberry bush "we" go.

  3. All sounds kinda schizoid if you ask us.