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Are we stealing history?

Imagine what all I erased in a click of a button when I deleted my Facebook. I was on it from 2010 to 2020, a decade.

In a click, I deleted every single birthday wish, every single like and comment, every single status update, every single hasty text, every single moment captured in a Facebook post. In a click, I deleted megabytes of history never to be relived. Even cavemen were not as cruel. Though limited in resources, they left something for us.

Imagine what will happen when I delete my LinkedIn, Instagram, and emails. I will delete years of conversations, whether they are matters of deep concern or just life updates. I will delete my own history and stories of my time. And they will be erased from the collective human memory/history forever. I might not delete them today, but I will have to delete them someday. If I died before doing it, my email provider would eventually remove my account due to prolonged inactivity. Every email exchange would simply get erased like it never happened. “What to do with your data after you pass away” is some next level autistry that even the dullest will not like. Everything digital will eventually be deleted.

How then will our descendants know about us? Are we not stealing history from them? When we see ancient carvings and drawings, we do not just see something fun; we see a chapter in human history, no different from ours at a deeper level. We feel the need to preserve what was preserved for us. We feel the need to guide our descendants as our ancestors guide us. When we read letters written 100 years ago, we experience the depth of the human experience and its timelessness. Will our emails be preserved and available like that? Will people in the future ever find a crumpled letter written by someone with shaky hands in 2022 and wonder how he felt when he was writing it? Aren’t we stealing these experiences and ancestral inheritances that our descendants will want from us? Will they not want to know more about us and how we did things in our time? Are we doing justice to them and to ourselves? My ten years of Facebook history are now gone forever, never ever to be experienced again. This may not matter much to me but may matter to people to come. I have shut down a room in the museum of human history. I have ripped out a page from the book of human history. I will rip out many more pages when I delete my Instagram, Linkedin, and my emails.

Some understand my concerns. I have thought of printing off my email exchanges (it still does not preserve my handwriting and the meaning it conveys) so future generations will have some references to what we were doing in the 21st century. I want them to know that we were here and we want to pass down to them what was given to us. If we find this reasonable, an obvious question emerges: if we will eventually have to preserve our conversations/history as hard copies, why do we communicate digitally?

Everything man-made shall perish. This we know. But if we go down this path of digital communication and storage, there will come a time when everything will be lost altogether. There will come a day when internet or electricity or both will die. And then, centuries of progress will simply vanish. Centuries of history and memories will just disappear into nothing. Thousands of years down the line, our descendants will wonder what happened between 2000 AD and 2500 AD (or maybe 3000 AD depending on how long the technological era exists). They will look back and see a historical vacuum. We will be like the lost civilization of Atlantis, a myth of a technologically advanced civilization that left behind nothing. Are we doing down the path of turning into a mythical civilization whose existence is questionable? Will we be a myth?

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