Digital Wipeout

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digital wipeout

On more than a few occasions my Millennial kids have faced the inescapable threat of a digital wipeout. My teenage / young adult kids, although significantly more tech savvy than me have been nagged, warned and scorned in response to this ostensibly catastrophic hazard. Warning: essential data stored on phones and computers must be backed-up. No exceptions. Inevitably, a mighty crash will descend unannounced leaving the digital dependent utterly crushed. This digital tidal wave typically strikes on the eve of a final exam, critical deadline, or at some other untimely precarious moment. The result is devastating; we feel powerless (Millennial parents) and paralyzed (Millennials).

After all, without our digital identity and data, what are we? So much of our daily lives are fused to our digital selves including our contacts, photos, calendar, files, social media profiles and more. Sometimes, it seems Siri is our best friend.

A blank screen, corrupted files and inadequate backup. What remains of us without a digital record of our expressions and productivity?

When faced with a digital wipeout we pray for a miracle that our personal and professional data can be restored or magically retrieved. Often, with patience, payment and moderate aggravation our precious data is returned intact. Obviously, that’s the best case scenario. Lesson learned. Be careful, and maintain up-to date backup – externally saved, in the cloud, wherever.

Recently, I learned this painful lesson myself ‒ the hard way. Much of my desktop digital data was wiped out. Poof. Gone forever.

The particular nature of the corruption of my files and the failure to recover much of my data is beyond the scope of this blog post. No doubt there are techies galore posting such blogs. The obvious lesson is with regard to adequate computer security, data storage and frequent backup, clearly a responsibility I had outsourced or simply not taken seriously enough.

Struck by a digital wipeout I was distressed; and when the consequences of this destructive reality surfaced, I was devastated. Simple equation: wipeout yields melt-down.

The upsetting experience left me with a frightening sense of my blatant dependency on my digital data.

This brings the generational gap into focus: the generational divide between Gen Xers “technologically astute” and Millennials “technologically savvy” is in fact blurred. We have slipped into dangerous territory once inhabited by our children. Really, we are all at the mercy of our digital data.  Actually, I began to contemplate if my identity and my life could be sufficiently separated from my digital self. In the absence of my complete digital history, am I even a real person? I wondered. Wow, apparently the digital wipeout has provoked somewhat of an identity crisis. Definitely cause for concern.

Over the years I have lost my wallet, and my purse. Indeed, upsetting and inconvenient. Also, I have been robbed (on the street and in my home) and I have had a car stolen (from my driveway). Once, my Facebook account was hacked. Each of these invasive experiences was disturbing and produced obvious complications.

Relatively, the recent digital tsunami I encountered was more disconcerting. Files lost included, meaningful letters, milestone speeches, incomplete blog posts, comprehensive professional records, and treasured personal narratives from my private collections. Definitely, this loss is worse than losing an OHIP card, cash, or a new Chrysler van. Some things simply cannot be replaced, such as ‒ the fruits of our imagination or significant historical documentation. At best, new files can be developed and new stories can be generated. Apparently, an unexpected opportunity for innovation, imagination, creativity and productivity. A prospect that is daunting, challenging and exciting. When our digital storage is deleted there is only one solution: rebuild the storage bank, one blank screen at a time. Wish me luck.

We cannot recreate our history, however; we can potentially reconstruct our present and possibly redesign our future.

A valued life lesson faced in one form or another in every generation. Best case scenario: perhaps my recent malicious digital wipeout will inspire new and innovative stories as yet untold. Stories generated from my heart and soul and memory. A wonderful lesson in gratitude, my stories are imprinted in my DNA and encrypted in my mind, our personal backup for our precious stories. Artificial intelligence may be the way of the future, but for now, the power of my mind including memory, inspiration and creativity are the greatest resources I possess for sharing my stories.

And please, keep everything on your phone, and your computer safely stored and securely backed-up.

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About Author

Liz Pearl, M.Ed., is an educator and therapist with a particular interest in psychogeriatrics and expressive arts therapy. She is the founder of PK Press and the editor of several collections of personal narratives including the recently released revised edition of Mourning Has Broken (KOPE Associates, 2005, 2015) and the Living Legacies series featuring Canadian Jewish women including, Volumes I - IV (PK Press, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014). Now available - Volume V! Her immediate goals include streamlining her Pearls of Wisdom and social networking nonsense into a succinct blog and adjusting to the looming empty-nest stage.

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