A huge amount of my life has been spent in the effort to create digital files of one sort or another. There are absolutely images, videos, and text files. But far more numerous are the inscrutable file formats of the web. There are xml files that can be rendered in thousands of ways. There are php and css files that determine what content on the web looks like. A quick look through my Google Drive(s) or my Dropbox or even my external hard drives that have my high school essays will show the thousands of cycles of excitement, creation, and abandonment that I have embarked on throughout my 38 years.
And yet, whenever I look back, I get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of what has been created. All of it is my “digital footprint,” and yet I can barely make out the shoe size.
Yesterday, I read through lesson plans that were the most important thing in the world as I was creating them. I also dug into the abandoned archive of old student WordPress installations. They were so valuable for a few short moments, and now they form a graveyard of files that serve no purpose.
I always imagined that at some point, I would have time to reflect upon all of my contributions and finally come to a conclusion, a verdict for what it all meant. I would take a look at the word documents and low-res videos and the truth of it would be apparent. I would learn the lessons of being a teacher, a husband, a father, and a human being living in a digital age.
Rather, I look upon the sheer ton of created works that I have amassed, terabytes of them scattered across the world on servers that quietly hum away in some remote city, and I only see obituaries to former selves that never panned out. I see the things that might have been far more than what sill might be. These files represent the doors that are no longer open to me.
And perhaps it is only fitting that I create a final resting place for these ideas, these former selves. Just as we malign (or, perhaps celebrate) every time that Google shuts down one of their products (245 at last count), it might be worthwhile to become my own archivist and perform an autopsy on the projects in my own life that didn’t quite make it. Learning from these files by officially burying them in my Digital Graveyard may be the only way to fully know what they meant and why they had value in the first place.
Otherwise, they are just the detritus of my digital existence, ready to be deleted and forgotten. I would much rather pay my respects to those former ideas, creations, and selves.