The LDS cultural has encouraged personal history and journal writing since its inception. Ever since then the vast majority of the members have ignored this council and the overall level of guilt among the LDS faithful has continued to rise as each successive generation followed the example of the previous. Technology now provides some relief from the burden. Journal writing, a boring effort prompting statements like, “I really should write in my journal but I need to clean the drains,” has been replaced by the uber hip practice of blogging, Facebook profiles and lifestreams. If Brigham had only spun journal writing a little differently the church could have been oh so cool. An early prophesy encouraging rich Myspace profile development could have shaken the very foundations of cool society.
As our real lives become more and more intertwined with our virtual lives the amount of data being stored about our daily lives is beginning to fill millions of Gigabytes in the ‘cloud’. Much of this data is collected or generated with little effort. Twitter makes it easy to keep a timeline of your life. WordPress, Typepad, or Blogspot make heavier entry creation simple. Facebook or FriendFeed make sharing your life simple and del.cio.us keeps track of everything that’s interesting to you.
For genealogists or family historians the next step is to find a way to aggregate and then store all this information long term. This is harder than it sounds, but invaluable for personal history and online identity. The trick becomes controlling the data that becomes part of your ‘permanent record’. While pictures of you downing jello shots with your buddies might be funny to you and your buddies now, unless you are my brother in law Brad you don’t want that distributed in the family newsletter. Nor would you want your kids reading about that 20 years from now. 150 years from now however the information becomes historical, less incriminating and it could become a more interesting part of your identity. There is a historian in the small town where my dad grew up who kept track of simple histories of everyone buried in the local cemetery. When those people were alive they would not have loved for people to know that they were a horse thief, adulterer, gambler etc, but for some reason a couple of generations later that information becomes a colorful and interesting part of the family history. Being able to seal up your more personal deeds for 150 years could be an interesting option for a personal history aggregator/archiver.
The monotonous task of personal history has given way to the popular methods of keeping a virtual life. While the term ‘lifestream’ sounds more fun than ‘personal history’ the two activities are not dissimilar and offer and opportunity for everyone to gather their history without much effort. Oh, and it’s cool.