Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Questioning the Permanency of New Media and Social Networking

Pages from my great-grandmother's autograph book, 1881

As I made a post to Facebook this morning – commenting on the weather and joking with a friend – I thought about the changes we have seen in the last decade. When I was twelve years old I bought a small cloth bound journal for my friends to write in. Coincidentally, we soon moved thirty miles away, to live with my grandmother, so the book became a means for my friends to pen their goodbyes. It is a true keepsake.

A few years ago, I was delighted to discover my great-grandmother had kept a similar little book. It was given to her as a Christmas gift in 1881 – she was 14 years old. I have shared a few pages from the book above. Not only does the text in this book give me a glimpse of the young girl she once was, it also shows me she shared my fondness for pansies. I have warm memories of working with my grandmother (her daughter) to plant these little flowers in the old cement pig troughs in the back corner of our yard. Years later, when I married my husband in the nearby garden, we placed pots of pansies on the tables. I felt my grandmother’s presence in their deep, velvety faces. And here, in my great-grandmother’s little book, she offers a small sketch of the flowers above the word “Autographs.”

But I digress... What I’m really wondering is will my daughter have a similar keepsake to share with future generations? In this age of texting and social networking, young people are sharing even the most mundane aspects of their lives on a daily basis. Moving thirty miles no longer means a loss of contact with old friends – they are as close as a touch of a button. But how permanent is this new means of communication? Will these digital archives become the treasures of the future? Or will the ease of their creation and lack of tangibility decrease their sense of value? Will they simply disappear?

1 comment:

Ashley Fessler said...

I find myself torn about social networking. I grew up as a military brat and moved every 4 to 5 years. As a child and teenager every time we moved I would take a journal or scrapbook and have all of my friends sign and say their goodbyes. I still cherish them to this day. On the flip side, I have been able to find just about every one of my friends from all of the states I lived in growing up. It is wonderful to see how they are doing after all of these years (I have found them as far back as the 3rd grade). It is a wonderful way to reconnect but I agree with you that today's generation may be losing the concept of "permanency." I loved looking at your grandmother's pages. What a beautiful memory that is still being enjoyed, by her granddaughter, all these years later. That surely can't be said about a digital photo that will get lost as technology changes or that post about the weather last week on Facebook.