A few weeks ago, in this space, guest columnist Vicki McLeod opined on the subject of our digital footprints – essentially, what we’ll leave behind online.
While she didn’t go into great detail, the premise itself was interesting enough, and got a few of us in the newsroom talking. Specifically, I started wondering how I would be remembered by my legions of Twitter followers (all 391 of you) if I were to pass away.
It also reminded me of a message I received years ago from one of my best friends.
He was about to go off and participate in some extreme sport or another – skydiving, bungee-jumping or something – and a few hours before he was set to leave, he sent me a text:
“Hey, if I die, delete my browser history.”
He was kidding – but let’s face it, partly serious, too. Never hurts to plan for the worst, I guess.
Of course, had the worst happened back then – thankfully, he emerged from his death-defying activity unscathed – and I had failed to hold up my end of the bargain, thus leaving viewable his laptop’s contents, the only person likely to ever see it would be his wife. (For the record, said contents would have been relatively benign. He’s not a monster.)
Social media, however, is a little more far-reaching.
If you’re lucky, your online history – your ‘Museum of Me’ as McLeod puts it – consists of vacation photos, cute cat videos and a few innocuous stories about restaurants you’ve liked.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you are a frequent poster of far-right fake news or discriminatory memes not-so-successfully disguised as humour, you may want to re-evaluate some of your life choices.
And God help you if you spent the early 2000s firing off FarmVille invites on Facebook.
Scrolling through my own social-media feeds, it’s easy to establish a few themes.
Snarky comments? Check.
Bad jokes – some that land, and many others that, uh, don’t?
Hundreds of frustrated Twitter rants as a result of the ineptitude of my favourite sports team? Guilty as charged.
It’s not all bad, though.
Sometimes I’ll post a link to something that I’ve written, and I’ve even been known to give a shout out to the fine work of my talented colleagues from time to time. A few hundred pictures of my dog exist on Instagram, too, as my gift to the world wide web.
I have deleted the odd post, though – instantly, in some cases – because I realize that what I’ve written has not come across as intended.
Other times, I’m just kind of being a jerk, and I’m smart enough to (eventually) self-filter.
Overall, I’d say my online footprint is a bit of a mixed bag, as I’m sure it is for all but the very best (or worst) among us.
But McLeod’s advice is not even about being good or bad, but simply about making sure our online personas are an authentic representation of our true selves.
Failed attempts at humour combined with dog photos and angry sports diatribes?
Seems pretty accurate to me.
Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.