Are we outsourcing our memories?

I have a distributed family – brother in Alberta, parents on the prairies, aunts, uncles and cousins scattered everywhere. One of the primary reasons for this blog was to keep those folks up to date on what was happening with my (then newly arrived) daughter. A blog seemed like the best way to do that.

Fast forward to 2008 and there are now a plethora of ways you can keep far flung family and friends informed of the little one’s first anything. Totspot, Kidmondo and Lil’ Grams are three web services that allow parents to easily store and organize your babies firsts. And there is a new site in beta called Odadeo, targeted directly to us Dad’s.

First off, I think these services are great, and go a long way to avoiding having to send out a hundred emails to everyone who you think might be interested in little Billy’s first toddle.

But beyond their usefulness, these services provide further evidence to me that we are undergoing a profound cultural change. Undoubtedly, we are beginning to raise the most documented generation of people in the history of civilization. Every moment of our kids lives are being not only captured, but digitally manipulated, stored and shared via our outboard brains. What is this going to mean to them in the future? And what is it going to mean for me, the person documenting this?

Marta Strickland has been thinking about this as well. In a recent post she mused about posting our kids life online before they are even aware they have a life.

With every YouTube video we post, with every Flickr photo gallery that we build, we are building a digital lifestream for our children when they are too young to even understand that we are sharing their lives

Is it convenient to have these services, or is it what the New York Times recently called baby overshare? Are we parents somehow co-opting our babies lives and playing out our own narcissism? Hey, look at me and what I have produced! World, take notice that I can reproduce! It seems to me that this baby thing is becoming quite, um, hip (which is a whole other post).

Personally, I appreciate the convenience and ability to share information about my kids with people close to me. If someone wants to find out what is happening in my kids life, they know where to look.

But I always have to balance that desire to share with respecting my kids rights. I post and share with their voice in the back of my head, imagining that they will someday troll back through the interwebs and find this stuff. How are they going to react? Or are they even going to care? My hope is that they will look back on the content I have created about their lives with joy and tenderness and realize it came from a place of love and was triggered by the joy of becoming a Dad.

But really, I do this for me. I post so I can remember. I post so I can process. I post to help me understand.

Recently I spent some time on this blog, digging around the archives, cleaning up things (hopefully in preparation of a visual upgrade of the site, so if the site changes soon don’t be shocked.). In the process of doing that, I found articles I had written years ago that I had forgot about. They are mostly the little ones, the ones that usually go unnoticed by most readers. The personal ones. Coming across them makes me reflective, makes me remember and makes me smile. And that is why I document.

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