Digital Sea Scrolls
And the Substack ghost dance.
We build our legacy piece by piece, and maybe the whole world will remember you, or maybe only a few people, but you do what you can to still be around after you’re gone.
A Ghost Story
Do you think Substack as a platform, and all the words on all the newsletters will be around for historians to sift through in a thousand years?
Two thousand years?
Have you seen the state of Blogspot after twenty years? It looks like your uncle’s 52’ Chevy he left in the barn when the engine block crapped out in 64’.
What is twenty years on a two-thousand-year timeline of human history?
Not that history!
Perhaps some old server farm will be discovered in an abandoned AWS warehouse in the Utah desert, and an advanced species will power them up from their nuclear centrifuge flux capacitor zero gravity craft and migrate a yottabyte of data in two seconds to their reduced graphene oxide gray matter hard drives.
<html> Hello World! </html>
And what will they glean specifically from all that data apart from what they already knew of such a primitive species who thought they were the bee’s knees?
Once they filter through all the pornography, shopping carts, lonely car confessionals, downward dog sunset pics, AI bots, and dancing nurses and doctors, they’ll come to the good stuff that was created by humans, for the consumption of other humans through the written word.
And they’ll learn that at one tiny pinpoint in history, on this timeline, in this dimension, some digital performers flocked to a platform called Substack to exhibit their best performances.
They’ll discover that far too many of them wrote about all the clever tricks and tips others could utilize to grow their Substack newsletter that involved not-so-subtle digital nudging outside of the direct cyberbegging route.
They’ll learn what motivated these performers through many confessionals about why each digital performer did what they did at the time.
They’ll find that these performers sought to “create an audience” through their performances and to “build a brand” through the safety of repetition and the comfort of familiarity and that many performers did this through the direct mission statement and call to action of their audience, the most successful calls to action rooted in optimism and hope.
They’ll quickly discover that the most popular performers rallied a tribe of like-minded strangers into a kind of cognitive hive, where their righteous cause was the pursuit of something greater than themselves that would mold the world in the image they believed needed it, in their quest to feel meaning and purpose.
And then they’ll discover that the top-selling newsletter on this platform in this dimension was by Heather Cox Richardson and their alien brains will explode with confusion, and they’ll look again at all those dusty server racks, and the fate of this bygone civilization will all make sense.
I’ve never written my Substack confessional, though no writer hides who they are in their writings. It all seeps out eventually.
And maybe by not writing it, I’m still writing it in this post.
Whatever this is, I do promise it will have a happy ending.