Say it like it was.
These days we are all contemporary historians. Like it or not, most of us leave our virtual marks on the annals of antiquity. We document our days by tapping out our texts, instagramming, whatsapping, chirping twitter, elevating our selfie-status on Facebook, or even blogging! We petrify our monograms in digital graffiti. And there it will stay, defying deletion for as long as there are memory banks to be raided and digits to finger the safe-blowing search engines.
Historians will probably plump for the year 2000 as the start of the mehistoric period. That could be about half a decade too soon, but a trench of ‘likes’ and a tranche of ‘shares’ should be sufficient to cement the date as fact. History has always been in the hands of those who could save and publish. Today that is almost everyone. There’s nothing as mobile as a static cellphone. Gospel truth is in our hands and it’s perpetually palm Sunday. Most people have the power to preserve the past, whether or not it happened.
We weave the web we want. We promote, archive, share, and ensnare. The virtual comment is always on the line. You cannot recreate the context nor eradicate the echoes. Beware the response you might summon. Peer pressure can fracture the social fabric. Forums can so easily become anti-social networks, and enthusiastic followers will fall away when the shit hits the fan. You may be mistaken. We all are, but one way to hide our own errors is to highlight the faults of others and gang up on them. Hashtags of the world unite. It’s flashmob rule.
Mehistory has no time for the future, it’s all about the now, and the now is now all about what went before. Forget public office if you have ever tweeted when tipsy or posted when pissed. Forget celebrated success if you failed to delete your faux pas. No need to fret over who should cast the first stone. The projectiles carry no weight but have sufficient clout to prove unbearable. The new Neolithic knaps the cyberspace flint with edges so sharp they can’t be seen. Trolls no longer need a bridge to hide under; any spacebar will do. Millions and millions have made a monolith. You can’t opt out even if you never entered in. Welcome to phonehenge.
On the plus side, we live in the first era where the thoughts of the populace placed on the record overwhelmingly outweigh the sifted judgements of the privileged few. Never before has the minute-by-minute minutiae of the masses been imprinted in the ledger of time immemorial on such a megalithic scale. We unwittingly bear witness while deliberately documenting our mostly trivial deliberations. It’s there forever – or maybe not.
There are two problems. One is that the permanent data may not be permanent at all. Technology will move on and it might not always be so easy to unearth what was considered to be soundly stored. Many people may remember magnetic tape, and floppy disks, but far fewer still have the means to read from them. The repository is only as safe as the hardware on which it rests, and the software that can unearth it.
The second problem is the flip-side of the magnitude of the ever-expanding mammoth resource: will the most valuable threads be able to be found when the carpet is the size of a small galaxy? However, the main drive of the mehistoric movement might not be to fashion the future, but to carve the contemporary. Could it be that for the first time ever, the primary purpose of writing of history will not be to preserve the past but recreate the present?
The now that we fashion is so often based on the faces that we fabricate. This is done ostensibly for the benefit of others, but maybe mostly in order to shape our sense of self. As well as enlightening our friends, our status refreshes our own esteem. We read the latest edition of where we are which, for the time being at least, illustrates where we might be going. Hence our aspirations become our achievements, our destinations our accomplishments, our fabrications our attainments. Like all historians, we write the testimony we’d like to be read.
Whether writing for others, or for ourselves, it could be prudent to be kind, considerate, and compassionate. We should be mindful. We will leave a legacy. When we upload our vision of the world we can become so self-centred that we rush to exclude. The urge to update could so easily become the be-all and end-all. Will we – the mehistoric people – be remembered mostly as a degenerative populace mesmerised by the signs on our screens going round and round in ever unceasing circles?