Two weeks ago, I took you one horrifying decade into your future and showed just how intrusive the internet is going to become. We shuddered, we cried, we laughed (though I still can’t figure out what you found funny about implanting the internet into a 10-year-old’s brain), but mostly, we realized how bad it’s going to get.
Allow me to pull the curtain back a little further.
All this business with “the cloud” is our first small steps toward that terrifying tomorrow: the Google cloud, the iCloud, the Windows Cloud...the future is overcast, friends. We’ll be saving everything to the cloud, and it’ll just sit there, backed up on a thousand servers, forever. We’re already headed that way, and have been for a while. I’m not talking about your documents and spreadsheets, although they’ll certainly be there. There’s way more of you out there than you might realize, and it’s very easy to find.
Ever gotten home late at night with a number, a first name, a borough and a thick, alcohol-induced haze shellacked over your morals and sense of propriety? I have, more times than I care to admit. Give me 20 minutes with Google and Facebook, and I can have a picture, last name, hometown, and place of employment nine times out of ten. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a Twitter feed and a website, too, and if the Internet Gods look upon me with favor, I’ll dig up an old LiveJournal or two. I’m not proud of it, but I can do it. It’s all there.
Oh, hold onto your little butts, guys. We’re not at the terrifying part yet.
Our kids are going to grow up with the internet in their heads. They’ll be on it, their friends will be on it, their schools will be on it, and it will never be off. To say that they’ll have time to practice is a massive understatement; it will be akin to breathing to them. I mean it -- they’ll think a command, and the computer in their head will respond to it. They’ll never have to worry about remembering an address, or a phone number, or how a certain word’s spelled, or anything. It’ll all be immediately available in their heads, backed up on a server somewhere. At a certain point, it’ll be considered cruel not to give your child such an incredible advantage. Think of all the other kids in school who -- I’m sorry, what? “That’s science fiction, there’s no way we’ll be able to have something like that.”? Well, we’ve been trying to make it happen for nearly forty years, chief. It’ll be here. Please refer to my previous article on the subject.
The internet won’t just be a part of our kids’ social lives, it will be their social lives. In the same way, the internet won’t be part of their brains, it will be their brains, wholly and inseparably. They’ll grow up with the ability to back up any piece of information on a server somewhere, then instantly search for it and call it up, with their minds. And so will you. But much like a colonial encountering a new indigenous society, you won’t really speak the language the way they will. They’ll be way better than you. Way better at backing up. Way better at searching.
Way better at digging. If you’re still with us, the terrifying part is nearly here.
Everything’s on the internet, from your emails to your Facebook to your browsing history, and everything’s searchable, given enough time and willpower. And I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve lived my internet life pretty fast and loose over the past 15ish years. There are some things out there that’d I’d rather not come to light. I’m not talking about red solo cup pictures. I’m talking about deeper stuff. Darker stuff.
Across most of the internet, I’m more or or less known as “Sean Curry”. Here at The Inclusive, on Facebook, and anywhere I sign in with my Facebook account, my handle is a simple first and last name. In places where that’s not available, I get a little more creative- “seancurry1”. Outside of that, there’s a few other current, active Sean Curry Official Internet Presences (accept no substitutes). Let’s see, there’s “seanseansean” on Tumblr -- I think “seancurry1” was taken there. Oh, and then there’s my last AIM screenname, “kilgannon920”, left over from my high school days (it’s a thing with a band...don’t worry about what it means). I still sign into that to keep in touch with a few friends. And then there’s -- Oh god.
Oh god. I didn’t even...
Let’s back up, and move forward ten years again. Facebook has taken over as everyone’s online calling card. You’ll sign in pretty much everywhere with your Facebook identity, or whatever the next competitor is. It’ll all be regulated and monitored and consenting and licensed and everything else it has to be for advertisers to make the most money possible off of it, and they’ll need you to have ONE identity as you sail across the waves of LOLcats. My son will simply be “Billy Curry” on the internet. To him, the idea of making up a name for yourself will seem old-fashioned, because there won’t be an outlet for that anymore. How else will the algorithms know which Christmas toy ad they should hook him with if they can’t access his unified browsing history?
So I’ll send Billy to bed early one night for lying about the F on his sixth grade report card. That’s not how Currys handle themselves. We do our best, but when we fail, we don’t lie about it! Haven’t I taught him better? He’ll storm off and slam his door shut, thinking about what a jerk I am and how can I hold this against him and how I don’t remember what it’s like to be twelve years old and honestly I probably was never even twelve years old to begin with -- Oh wait a minute, yes I was. Of course I was. Even I, the shining example of paternal responsibility that I am (will be), was a bratty little crap of a kid once.
Guys? This is the terrifying part.
Billy starts thinking, and his internet-brain starts whirring. He brings up my Facebook profile, starts scrolling through the history, going back far. Further. Even further. To before he was born, to before I met his mother. To my 20s, to college, to...
Friends, I urge you to exercise extreme caution when clicking that link, for that link will take you to a dark place. Especially those who I know in real life, for that will show you a side of me that I desperately try to keep hidden from the real world, a side of me that I believed to be long-dead and buried.
“fallintohereyes” was my handle on LiveJournal.com in my early college years. When my goal in life was still to be... a poet.
Yes, emo poetry abounds. Yes, vague writings about pretty girls (ones whose eyes I might fall into) and plain, ugly cries for attention echo off those vacant cyberwalls. My son will find that and have a wealth of ripe blackmail fruit to harvest and use against me. But that’s not all. That blog will also unfortunately lead him to...
Proof, in writing, that I used to listen to an inordinate amount of pop punk and ska, hate on thong underwear (Listen, it was 2005, I was young and stupid), and loooove me some Jesus. “Gay” was an insult and college applications were as bad as my life got. And the surveys. Allow me to humbly beg your forgiveness should your eyes have already unwittingly gazed upon any of them. They should not be.
But even with all of this (plus the trail of breadcrumbs that leads to www.myspace.com/seancurry), we still haven’t found the worst of it yet. That’ll be revealed when my son asks the following question:
“Dad... what’s ‘TheT0mahawkK1d’?”
Bam. The forgotten corner of my internet past. That murky, twisted time when I was figuring out how this weird new body of mine worked and noticing that people who used to have cooties now had even weirder new bodies. When my emotions and logic didn’t swing from extreme to extreme, they attached a jet engine to the pendulum and broke the chain. When anything was justifiable if it sounded cool enough.
When, for some reason, I decided to be known as “TheT0mahawkK1d”. Or “GrandTheftAtmn”. Or... “tyncan1028”.
I’ll have to explains these screamingly loud lapses in judgment to a child I just reprimanded for a lapse in judgment. How do I do that? How can I tell my bratty little kid not to act like a bratty little kid when right in front of both of us are the very thoughts I thought when I was a bratty little kid?
What happens when my wife sends our daughter off to her room for hanging out with that boy we don’t like, even after we told her not to, and she brings up pictures of all the different boys she’s ever been photographed with? Or finds her relationship status history, or the wall posts from old boyfriends? What if my kids find a picture of younger me with a woman who isn’t their mother before they’re old enough to understand that Mommy and Daddy used to see other people? At least my parents’ histories’ potential to harm were limited by where the evidence physically was. My children will be able to bring it all up at a moment’s notice. It’ll be fresh, right there, as if it were written moments ago by that same bratty little kid.
They’ll probably even find this very article (and honestly kids, if you’ve read this long, come find me -- you get a bowl of ice cream on the house, no matter what time of day it is. Unless you’re diabetic, in which case we’ll work something out.) And if they haven’t already found out all about me... well, I guess I’ve given myself away then, haven’t I? I mean, I’ve laid it all out here, all my past internet misdeeds. It’s thorough, no stone has been left unturned, not a one. There’s definitely no reason to keep searching after you’ve found this article, because this is all of it. Yup. Nothing else on me out there.
It’s not like I have a Deviant Art page or anything.