For most of her existence, my great aunt lived in a world that relied on typewriters, slide-rules, and notebooks (the paper type). To the best of my knowledge, she never owned a computer and died before the Internet came into its own. She did not have any children and her husband had passed away years earlier. She kept a diary of sorts, as written snippets on annual calendars, in notepads, on receipts, and in other, unlikely places. These thoughts represented who she was---her dreams, her beliefs, her ideas, and montages of her daily life.
When she passed away, her estate was split between several family members. They might have kept a few items as "mementos." I am sure that at least some of these people still have a photo or two of my great aunt and her late husband. Nonetheless, her story has almost completely disappeared; the notepads, the receipts, and the calendars that contained her words--her life--were long ago consigned to the dumpster. Rare is the time when anyone speaks her name, much less recalls any fond (or perhaps not so fond) memories of her. In many ways, she is as anonymous as the men and women on the antique family portraits hanging up in roadside diners. Of them, nothing much remains except perhaps for a picture and a gravestone. Even their relatives have forgotten them.
Perhaps my great aunt would be content with this situation. For her, the next life was the more important one. Nonetheless, I cannot help but wonder what she would think about the Internet, and more importantly, about social media. With these tools, she could have left her story behind on a blog, on Facebook, or on some other, on-line site for a future generation of curious relatives to read. As important, while living, she could have used social media to keep in constant contact with friends, family, and acquaintances. When she logged into her Google + account for instance, she might have been cheered to see a post, which she authored, had garnered 15 responses.
I will never know what my aunt would have done if she had spent the majority of her life in the new, social media driven world. However, I am thankful that I might have the chance to leave behind some aspect of myself on the Internet--some part of me that a future relative (say in a couple hundred years) can access.
-- Anthony Hopper
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