Why Leave a Digital Legacy When You Can Leave One IRL?

This past week, WordPress.com announced the 100 Year Plan which offers high-end website hosting and domain ownership for 100 years, all for the low, low price of $38,000. Matt Mullenweg, cofounder of WordPress, describes the intended audience for this service:

Safeguard your online legacy with the 100-Year Plan. This brand-new offering is for:

  • Families who wish to preserve their digital assets—the stories, photos, sounds, and videos that make up their rich family history—for generations to come.
  • Founders who want to protect and document their company’s past, present, and future.
  • Individuals seeking a stable, flexible, and customized online home that can adapt to whatever changes the future of technology will bring.1Matt Mullenweg, “Introducing the 100-Year Plan: Secure Your Online Legacy for a Century,” WordPress.Com News (blog), August 25, 2023, https://wordpress.com/blog/2023/08/25/introducing-the-100-year-plan/.

I understand the desire for something stable and lasting in today’s highly volatile digital environment. A lot of our lives happen on the web. And I understand the desire to treat a website like real estate that can be passed down to our children’s children. But I don’t think the cost of passing down such a legacy should be on par with that of mid-grade Tesla.

I’ve heard other people say that their social media feed will be a digital scrapbook—that their kids will be able to scroll back through their profile on Instagram in the future and see what happened in the past. In my opinion, both the 100 Year Plan and the Social-Media-as-Scrapbook Plan are fraught with complications including but not limited to:

  • What if the company providing the service goes under?
  • What if electricity stops being a thing? (Not very likely, but possible?)
  • What if technology changes so drastically as to make supporting such plans impossible?

There are so many assumptions undergirding creating those types of digital legacy. Assumptions about how technology will evolve. Assumptions about how we will use technology. Assumptions that the archive of data we intend to pass down will remain uncorrupted for an unprecedented amount of time (bitrot is a thing). Computers have been around since the 1960s. Lots of technologies that power the web have been around for decades. However, the internet isn’t anywhere near it’s 100 year birthday. Making long-term plans on infrastructure that is still in the process of being shaken and shaped up seems like a house of cards built on sand.

I long for things that last. I want to pass down my work of writing and thinking to my kids. The more I write and publish on my blog, the more I realize that my kids may benefit from it someday. For the past few months (maybe a year), I’ve been using Obsidian to write my blog posts. Doing so gives me a backup of all of my text in Markdown format, which is easy for humans and computers to read. Using Obsidian gives me a sense that what I’m writing can live on even if my website dies. Redundancy equals safety and longevity when it comes to web/tech stuff.

But even if my website crashes, my domain gets revoked, and all of my Markdown files get corrupted, it wouldn’t materially affect the real legacy that I hope to pass down to my children. Yes, they would lose access to the writing that has helped my hone my thinking and broaden my inner life. Sure, they may lose a degree of insight into my growth process. But I’m not hanging my hat on that archive. If all of my family photos from my parents got burned up in a house fire, that would be an incalculable loss, but it wouldn’t affect their true legacy, which is the sum of all relational interactions and experiences built up over decades.

I’m far less concerned with my digital legacy than I am with my relational legacy: What am I passing down to my kids about walking with and knowing God? What am I teaching my kids about marriage? What am I passing down to my kids in terms of wisdom and experience about living in this world? That legacy is passed down through deep love, intentional relationship, and daily faithfulness. The effects are felt through generations, even if they’re not necessarily seen in the moment. Money can’t buy that, and it’s one of the most priceless gifts that can be passed down. As for me, I’ll skip the whopper of a subscription fee and invest my money and time into a legacy that lasts forever.

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