Written by Emma Vetriano • Published 14th September 2011

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Social media has become an everyday tool for many people. We use it to both manage and record our lives. Consider that worldwide we send 200,000 tweets a day and upload 48 hours of video every minute – it soon becomes clear just how detailed an online archive we are building.

Never before has the minutiae of ordinary peoples’ lives been recorded in such vivid detail. A whole generation are active online, sharing information from our physical characteristics to our personalities regularly. With developments in technology such as smartphones and tablets, our social media activity is only increasing, adding more detail to our online profile in the process.

This anthropological archive is also, as far as we know, permanent. For example, what happens if you deactivate your Facebook account? By deactivating you are choosing not to post any more content but what about your past content? True, your deactivated profile is not visible to any other users but Facebook does keep all this data on file, in case you want to return to the service in the future. Once again this draws attention to the topical issue of data ownership – surely as users, we own our own content – in which case why are we unable to permanently delete it?

Another key question is how much our digital persona actually reflects our offline persona. It is impossible to speculate on this, without considering the lack of anonymity in social media, which is bound to determine the ‘public’ persona we project. I would guess that – to a greater or lesser extent – most users ‘cherry pick’ the parts of their real lives they wish to publicise on social media. So their online persona is a decidedly blinkered view of their real life.

Nevertheless, the really crucial question is; what will become of the data we do choose to share? Undoubtedly the amount of personal information we upload is only ever increasing and the archive becoming more detailed.

Will there come a time when historians are recreating the lives of our generation – perhaps programming robots to mimic us for example – using the information we have shared online?

Now that is some serious food for thought… Don’t forget to tweet this or share it on Facebook! 😉