There are always things that happen to one’s life that at the time that looking back, maybe had a larger impact on you than you think or remember. It could be something small or it could have been something big that really changed your life. There was one such event in my life that didn’t really happen to me, but rather to a friend of mine, yet after all these years I think it has slowly stuck with me and I am not entirely sure why.
In sixth or seventh grade one of my best friends was a kid named Jarred. We liked so many of the same things and always had fun together. He was one of the few kids that liked comics so that was always something we had in common whenever we hung out. He also had an older brother who was a senior in high school, so there was about a six year or so age difference. It was always fun to hang out with him even though he was really different. This was the time when grunge was popular and he was totally into grunge. His brother also had a girlfriend, Crystal, who seemed really sweet and down to earth. I only met her on a few occasions but for some reason I can still remember them, funny how certain things stick with you.
To this day I am not 100% sure what happened and I do not think those that where there know either. Regardless something happened and Crystal died on an ordinary weekend night. In my small town this was big news, a high school teenager had died at a party. There were immediate speculations of drugs, which seems to be the cause of death, but it was not known if that was the cause even after an autopsy. As I said the events of that night were strange even to those involved.
I can still remember the following Monday at school talking to Jarred and he being very upset about her passing. He was obviously much closer than I was to her. I cannot even imagine what his brother must have gone through. Again it is very strange that someone that I had only met a handful of times, possibly twice, could stick in my memory so vividly, and for the past few years I had thought about her more and more. Wondering what happened to this girl over and over again in my mind.
A few years back I remember picking up a random Sunday newspaper at my parents’ house and for some reason flipped to a page where people can write in. One little excerpt was a poem just a few short lines that to only a select few would have understood what it meant, and it was signed by a single letter. As soon as I saw the letter I immediately knew it was a poem for Crystal written by my friend’s father. Looking back on this it is just another strange coincidence, as I never read the local paper where I grew up.
One night the manic thoughts about Crystal got the best of me. How could a girl I barely knew occupy so much of my mind, why did she continue to fill my head. There was a point where I felt I was losing my mind, why did I care about this girl from so long ago. I could not sleep and eventually went to my computer and typed he name into Google. I did not find much as she died in either 1997, a few years before the internet really took off. I did find a few sites mentioning her on a chat that was dedicated to those who had died in my home town. It was very strange to read the comments as there was still much bitterness between the friends that were there that night and about what happened. I hate to speculate but it is just an all-around sad situation that resulted in an 18 year old girl dying while at a party with her friends.
I do not know for the life of me why someone who I barely knew from so many years in the past kept popping up in my thoughts. Life is funny sometimes I suppose.
During my internet searches to find out more, something dawned on me. I realized that there was little to no information out there on her, which I found strange, as everyone has some sort of digital footprint. As I thought about the situation it became more apparent why, the mid to late 90’s social media had not been introduced to the world and the internet was still in its infancy. Still it was interesting to try and find information about someone that existed, but there was very little if nothing of her digitized life. This got me thinking, there is already a generation that has spent their entire lives online, from their birth, and this will continue into the future.
What I mean is that I would say that any children born around the year 2004, possibly later, moving forward their entire lives will be available on social media or through some digitized form. So if some distant relative in the far future wanted to look up ol’ cousin Bob, there will be a plethora of information from pictures, to Facebook posts, Twitter updates, that blog he ran that no one knew about, and anything else that encompasses their digital footprint. This will be interesting to see how future generations view this aspect of our lives, plus I also think it will be interesting to see how maybe children who had a parent die when they were young could go back and look at all this information and sort of get to know their mom or dad, or at least maybe get to see what they were like. If I were to die right now someone could track the last five to six years of my life just based on the photos on Facebook posted by my significant other, not to mention this blog. That is pretty cool, I am not saying you can totally understand a person just based on these things but it is better than just have a hand full of old pictures to look at after a loved one has passed.
It is something interesting to think about, one that I do not think anyone at Facebook has thought about moving forward. It is not quite the virtual immortality that I think most of us were thinking of, but it is certainly a start. I wonder if there will be a point where a program or algorithm could gather all this info left behind and compile it into some sort of digital personality, so a person could actually talk to a digital construct of the individual. I would think that there would need to be quite a lot of information, but I am sure you know of people that post everything on social media.
If Crystal had social media of some sort I wonder if my mind would have been put at ease just being able to see gather some other info about her life. She feels like a complete stranger that has occupied my thoughts from time to time through the years.
If you are one of those people, like me that despises social media, maybe you should look at it differently. Perhaps view it is something your children will enjoy when you are gone, or something they can always have to remember you by.