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Grandpa's on Facebook
By Alvin Soon - on 29 Jun 2011, 7:00am

I never knew my grandfathers. Both passed on while my parents were young, and because of that I have nothing to go on to remember them by; no pictures, no stories, no idea of where our families came from.

If they had been on Facebook, things would have been completely different.

It's staggering the amount of media we're creating as a species today. Already, there have been close to 100 billion photos uploaded to Facebook. An average of 140 million tweets are sent per day. There are millions of blogs on the internet today, too many to reliably keep track of.

And with Twitter and Facebook now integrating into our smartphones, it looks like it's going to become increasingly easy to create and share content. The ability for us to make memories, share them and then have them stored for legacy is profoundly easier than it has ever been before.

If Facebook manages to outlive its predecessors - sites like Six Degrees, Friendster and MySpace - and runs for a few decades, we might very well be entering into a new layer of cultural memory via the internet, one that stores our shared lives not just for one generation, but for generations to come.

If my grandpas had been on Facebook, I would be able to watch their lives, see our similarities, our differences. What grandpas liked, what they didn't. What grandpas and grandmas did together, and the stages of their lives together - giving birth to, raising my parents, and how they felt about that. I would be able to witness their deaths and the reactions of the people around them. It wouldn't be the same as being there, it would be shallower and only offer glimpses, but they would be glimpses I would not have otherwise.

Or maybe not. Facebook may very well go the way of Friendster one day, and do what Friendster had to do - delete photos, blogs, comments and groups created by its users. Years of memories - erased.

Still, given that nobody knows how the future will play out, and that some of us at least are likely to become grandfathers and grandmothers one day, it's an interesting question to ask ourselves: Is leaving a digital legacy like this is what we want? It's a heady subject to ask what you might think of your social networking content viewed X number of decades in the future, but it's a curious thought experiment to wrap your head around.

It tickles me no end to imagine a grandchild seeing photos of old, wrinkled grandma partying it up as a young 20-something, or for a grandkid's friends to watch videos of him or her garling as a baby, shot and shared by an enthusiastic and young grandparent years ago.

A multi-generational web, with the cloud as an increasingly rich memory of humanity. You may say that I'm a dreamer, but maybe Facebook will prove I'm not the only one. Ask me again in 40-odd years.

Alvin Soon

Alvin Soon / Deputy Editor

I like coffee and cameras, but not together.