Who am I? A fairly common question that can occur at various milestones in a life, but also a crucial one to answer when adopting a videogame avatar, or inhabiting a character who has their own thoughts and opinions. In our current times, it is also a separate question to ask, “Who am I in what I share online?” While not wholly new, it does throw into sharper relief the question of public versus private personae. But behind these is also the question of how you communicate this through your own actions and words, which is quickly followed by who has access to that information.
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Gritfish’s game Killing Time at Lightspeed has a fairly simple premise. You are a passenger on a transport ship leaving Earth, traveling at, you guessed it, lightspeed. The way you can spend your time? Scrolling through your FriendPage social media feed, or read the headlines of Skimmit (it’s not just The Onion who can get away with condensing their info to a headline anymore!). Of course, there’s a bit of a lag, as the farther you move out, the more time passes between each refresh of your feed. What seems like moments for you can be weeks, months, years.
As time passes, you can watch protests your friends take part in, or comment from on the sidelines. Some get into relationships with each other, and just as you want to congratulate them, you blink and they have already broken up. Inevitably, perhaps, your timeline starts to dry up, and as you stare at the screen, life has moved on to a new platform, to which you no longer have access. I spent my time with Killing Time at Lightspeed defining my blank slate of a self by how I responded to what my friends were doing, and what I was left with was messaging a lone friend who still used the service, and realizing whatever this person had in store for them, it was likely to be very boring, and hopefully fairly introspective. Would I want to be alone with my own thoughts for a long period of time?
I spend more time than I probably should thinking about the ephemeral nature of our online platforms. With how we are starting to realize their importance as primary documents for future generations (see the debate over whether the President has the right to delete Tweets), the historicity of these places seems intact, but a platform is only as useful as it is while being used. The other week I had a notification from LiveJournal that my account had been accessed from an IP address in Russia. Quickly logging in to change a password I hadn’t thought of in several years, I contemplated how to go about preserving this journal of my life from 2001 until 2007, and how painful it would be to delete it. It was a definition of who I was, but it is only a guiding step into who I currently am…
Denis Farr is a writer based in Chicago who previously worked as an editor with GayGamer and The Border House.