Everything we do on the web must come from a view of posterity. How else are we going to avoid putting drunken college photos up on Facebook, leaving something embarrassing on our work computers’ web history, or continually attacking others?
The largest part of this is that the net is nothing but posthumous in some ways. It’s an archive of past activity. The current trend of real-time computing, instant collaboration, and social media has changed how swiftly things become the past – but everything on the web is a past action. You liked this. You tweeted that. You blogged this. Everything is past-tense. Everything is posted – it’s placed into the record, upon publication.
When I write, I always consider how a given post will look next year, the year after – five years out, ten years out, and so on. I didn’t always write this way; when I was journalling, rather than blogging, I often wrote for the moment. For the ephemera. The unfortunate consequence of this is dissatisfying publications, arguments with friends, being misunderstood – or worse, professional consequences later in life.
You don’t even have to go out that far. Not everyone can, or needs to, plan on a lifelong scale; few people need to live their lives more than a few days in advance. In which case, think of posterity anyway.
How will what you do online influence people an hour after it’s posted?
How will your tweet be perceived two hours from now?
How will your industry see your blog entry after you’ve been picked up by a major aggregator?
What does your legacy look like now, with you at your most active?
What would it look like if you took a month off, starting right now?
When you hit publish – and don’t get me wrong, I want you to hit publish – consider… What will you think about what you posted, immediately after you’ve posted it?
Delete’s always an option. But then, are you participating in revisionist history?