We are collectively the most documented human beings who have ever lived on Earth. We're leaving a digital legacy of our entire lives for all to see, and future generations will have the ability to access extremely detailed information about us. Because the technology allowing us to constantly update our daily behavior is so new, the long-term effects of having a continuous morphing online presence won't be known for years to come.
Unless our ancestors kept meticulous journals or kept up a daily correspondence, it's highly unlikely we could ever know what a grandparent ate for breakfast on August 8, 1936. In 2013, we have visual proof of someone's breakfast, plus a comment from the person who ate the breakfast and the people they shared the breakfast's details with.
Social media has made lives accessible and online thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, and photographs instantly sharable. The short-term issues surrounding this new openness have begun to be documented. Students have been bullied to death, political careers have been cut short, and revolutions have been ignited and the flames have been fanned. As we've recently seen, our entire lives are available to our government and any security or encryption methods you use are pretty much laughable.
If you grew up as a digital native, thinking about your digital footprint doesn't come easily, and the main advice teachers and administrators give is to just to have less of an online presence. In an article entitled 'Rethinking Student's Footprints: The Digital STOMP-print,' talks about how students should have a more deliberate online presence, by not only building a digital footprint, but going further and creating a digital STOMP-print of only projects that best represent them.
Over the next decade, retail companies will be working overtime to engage your loyalty to their brand. We've already bought into the world of corporate gamification where we agree that receiving reward points for our behavior is a worthy investment of our time. With the upcoming predictive refinements of the mash-up of big data and mobile, more and more of this will become automatic. After you've signed up or been tracked online, your personal information goes to the highest bidder and is used to create more personalized messages. This week Google admitted to a new policy centered around using Google+ users' personal endorsements as advertisements, without the users consent. It's already uncanny how the predictive web has begun reading your mind when you shop online. In the end, the need for privacy may not be as powerful a motivator as the primal fear of exclusion from the tribe.
A New York Times article, 'Bequeathing the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife,' delves into the legal and personal realities of planning for your digital afterlife. If the digital now is everywhere, the digital hereafter is fast arriving. As our digital lives overtake more of our real life lives, more of these personal and ethical dilemmas will pop up and create new industries and require deeper levels of creative thinking and adaptation. How much information you want to share online is your decision. But shouldn't you have the final say about what happens to how your online information is used? It seems like we're far past the time when online companies that collect personal information should be required to make agreements shorter, more user-friendly, clearer, and more opt-in than opt-out. In the meantime, billions of people are posting big ideas, cat videos, and what they had for breakfast -- and the living and the dead are reinventing what a digital life and a digital afterlife says about being human.