We’re All Making History

Jean Miélot

by baldilocks

A tad morbid, but this is something to consider, and not just with Facebook.

The number of dead Facebook users could outnumber the living by 2070, leaving a vast archive of such historical importance that archivists should be brought in to conserve the data, Oxford University has said.

Currently the global social media site has around 2.27 billion members, but 1.4 billion will die before 2100, according to the new calculations.

For certain, the majority of those now living will be gone by then.

It means that within around 50 years the number of dead could pass the living, in a milestone that has important implications for what should happen with such a huge digital legacy. (snip)

Currently, after a person dies a Facebook account is memorialized unless the user has selected “delete after death” in their settings. The word “remembering” is placed next to the profile name and a “legacy contact” is appointed to look after the page.

It allows friends and family to view public posts made before their death and also post memories.

The OII [Oxford Internet Institute] is calling on Facebook to invite historians, researchers and archivists to devise a way to curate the archives so they are not lost to future generations.

Personally, I have designated three family members to handle my Facebook account should I suddenly move on to the next world.

Reading this piece, I began thinking of all the connections I’ve made over nearly two decades – several of whom I’ve met personally and cared about very much – who are no longer with us. I’ve been blogging since 2003, so the list is becoming longer. Such is life … and death. And here’s something else to think about.

Mr. Ohman [doctoral candidate for the OII] added: “Data from social media differs from traditional historical data, not only in terms of the content, but also in terms of the quantity.

“What we know about people in the past is basically based on men with power, who could preserve information about themselves to future generations.

“But we know way less about the thoughts and daily lives of the millions of women, workers and other marginalized groups in history. With social media as an historical asset, we have a chance not to repeat this mistake.”

I’m not one to worry about what the world will think of me while I’m still breathing, much less after I’m gone. But I think that this is a great justification for Facebook, etc. to allow historians into its archives. Thinking about my own family, I know almost nothing about the personalities and thoughts of my ancestors for obvious reasons. But present and future generations can get a glimpse into the lives of their 21st century forebears not only through Social Media, but from those of us who blog.

I like that idea. And, though I have no children, I’d like my Nth grand-nieces and -nephews to know more about me than I know about those who came before me.

Ain’t technology great?

Oh, by the way, be sure to regularly download your social media and blog archives. You never know if you’re about to be de-platformed by those who want to keep the making of history all to themselves.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, MeWe, and Gab.

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