Imagine it’s your 40th birthday.
Give or take a few years, it’s around 2030 and you are, like it or not, a
middle-aged person of the numerically official type. The specifics of your
hypothetical future are irrelevant (except that you’re probably fat). The point
is, you’ve lived about half the years of your life and you can safely say your
youth, in all its flower frolicking glory, is well in the past, at least in the
physical sense of the word.
also that you still have a Facebook account — yes, the very same as now. But in
place of a youthful profile picture exemplifying your “good side,” it’s you
looking the sagging, middle-aged part; a role you are beginning to play a
little more convincingly than preferable. But that’s okay, because on this,
your supposed 40th birthday, you decide to give yourself a present. That is,
you decide to reflect upon the “glory” years of your earlier life — an
astounding gift to yourself, I know.
course, it’s 2030 in this hypothetical scenario, and in my interpretation of
the future one doesn’t need to search exhaustively through a shoebox for a
series of eclectic photos. Hard copy photography in 2030 is for the decrepit
and those with a bad case of “anachronistic syndrome” (does that syndrome
exist? It should). Even today, Facebook’s photo storage has largely made
obsolete all forms of non-digital personal photography. To an almost creepy
extent Zuckerberg’s brainchild (stolen or not) has supplanted other means of
personal remembrance in favor of an all digital, all online system. In less
than a decade Facebook has become as important a storage device for your own
personal images as it is an indispensable social tool. Not to sound like a
technophobic, “Skynet”-fearing conspiracy theorist, but what we basically have
is a website that passively documents our lives in Internet form.
that’s fascinating, right?
think of it. The notion that from teenage-dom when you likely created your
profile to the hypothetical future where you’re a Facebook lurking 40-year-old,
your life could potentially be documented to the extent of thousands of
pictures, statuses, comments, videos and whatever else Facebook records.
pattern of your life will be written into lines of code where, in fractions,
your storied self will take on an abstract digital form. Each part of your
coded picture will be made whole by a vast compilation of seemingly
insignificant bits, where each minute shred ultimately contributes to the unity
of a grand, personal composition. A composition that will, so I hope, express
an essence of “you” as if you were a resonating portrait; but instead of a
still painting your image will come in the form of a life’s discernible
development with all its transitory properties intact. Each changing phase will
be visible, marked by shifting photography, blurbic expressions and
interpersonal social commentary.
again, imagine a 40th birthday in which you decide to reflect on your past
life. All you need do, theoretically, is open up Facebook and begin examining
the many fractious bits of self you have left in your wake; whether that be
pictures, statuses or comments each fragment can tell you a little something of
who you were and how you came to presently be.
I personally won’t have time to reflect on my past because, naturally, I’ll be
too busy sailing my space yacht through the space Caribbeans, most of us
should, and probably will, be able to reflect back upon our Facebook preserved
I’m already looking forward to examining the remnants of my 20-year-old
Facebook self. I imagine James at 40 examining his various Facebook personas
and wondering what crazy thoughts filled his head, way back when. At the
moment, I think my semi-bro, BP-advocating, alcohol-enthusiast Facebook persona
to be ironical hilarity. I have a predilection for updating my statuses with
highly poetic “New Boyz” quotes and shouts outs to the various scrubs I’ve
trolled in beer pong, all while using awful, slang-filled “English.” It’s
gotten so absurd that a so-called “friend” of mine, a girl who goes to another
school, told me she would probably not be my friend if she knew me based purely
off my Facebook profile (lulz!!). That’s all kinds of awesome.
have to wonder then what my perspective will be in 20 years. I’ll probably look
back with disgust at the immature, pretentious fool I was and think myself a
silly boy who pales in comparison to the slightly mature, pretentious fool I am
at 40; a silly man by then, surely. You should wonder, too, what your Facebook
will say about you someday. Hopefully all good things?
O’HARA can be contacted for his Nobel Prize in journalism at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, I attempted changing my Facebook persona to the “artsy, sensitive” type,
but I didn’t have a fedora, so it didn’t work out.