Timeless vs Real Time

If I were a book, you will put me in a bookshelf after you’ve read me. Later, I’ll probably lie in an attic and find my way to a library. My life would span a few decades, or even more. If I’m exceptionally good, I’ll be a timeless classic.

If I were your personal diary, I will probably last your lifetime, even if you stop using me after a while. You’ll keep me under lock and key, and no one else will read it. You will always treasure me.

If I were a real greeting card, you must have looked at me fondly, caressed me as if I were precious. You may not look at me again for many years, but I’ll be stashed away in some drawer of “memories”. Some day, you will enjoy nostalgia going through that drawer.

If I were a photo from your childhood, I will be stuck in some family album. This family album will be a great source of joy during holidays when the whole family is together.


If I were a blog post, I will live for a few years at best. That is, unless my blog is hacked or accidentally wiped out. I will be happy if your children know the name of my blog.

If I were a JPEG, I’d be one among the millions on Facebook or Flickr. Some people you’ve never met in real life may look at me and write comments. If I offend the sensibilities or political opinions of the owners of such social networks, I may be deleted.

If I were an email, my life in your inbox will be a few hours. After you’ve read me, I will be deleted or archived, and forgotten forever.

If I were a status update on a social network, I’ll be real-time, one among many that flow like fallen leaves in your friends river of feeds. If I’m good, I might be “liked”, extending my life by a few more minutes.

If I were an IM or chat conversation, I am real-time. I exist for a few fleeting minutes. I am usually used just to say Hi, or pass a link. Nobody ever looks at me again, as I vanish from this universe usually without leaving a trace.

If I were a tweet, my value usually lasts a few minutes. I may be short, but I am real-time. If I am any good, I will be passed around, shared among people who don’t know much about each other beyond their 140 character bios.

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  • Beautiful thoughts on Timeless vs Real Time!

  • Thank you.

  • you have an amazing ability to express in simple words jargon without losing either its meaning or punch! lovely post

  • Timelessness is an illusion.
    Books cards, photos, diaries… but also paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc. most end up in the trash can or the incinerator. People don't consider every scrap of human life as memory. And unless you are among the happy few, all these solid material production of human intelligence and talent evaporate into oblivion.
    Real time is also an illusion.
    Although most of our digital acts are to be lost in the crowd or forgotten in the next couple of minutes, it does not mean that some (or all) will not be archived somewhere and kept for future digital archeologists. Tweets, JPEGs, mails, IMs, but also posts, comments, links, votes, etc. are part of a vast connected web of collective conscience. Again, it depends on people and not on machines or tools, that human intelligence and talent productions become common culture or collective memory.
    Opposing timelessness and real-time is symptomatic of a nostalgia for the realm of material things, and the attachment to them. We no longer live in a material world and things are no longer the only mean of fixing memory. Should we accept or not this reality is irrelevant. Memory is shifting. And so is culture and use.
    We need real time to manifest a collective conscience. We also need timelessness to build the former upon a collective culture. These are two sides of the same coin.

  • Two sides of the same coin, facing opposite directions. 🙂

    I hate to dissect it like this, but this wasn't a post to be taken literally. That's the reason it was written not in my voice, but as if the artifacts were speaking themselves, and why it was all in italics.

    You are correct, Pierre – this was a lyrical post, born out of romanticism and nostalgia. A piece of creative writing, not intended to be debated.

  • Coming from you, this is a huge compliment for me. Highly appreciated, thank you.

  • Great work.

    How do we make work such as this and other blogs more permanent? Not to mention all those jpeg photos, or at least the ones that matter? I wrestle with this at http://www.digitalfamilytrunk.com – no answers yet.

  • Thank you for sharing, Rob.

    That looks like an interesting effort. It is almost as if my post were a prelude to your site. 🙂 True, no answers yet.

  • marfi

    Gorgeous, though… if I were the first @ev's tweet or the first @Obama tweet I will live much longer 🙂 And the list of exceptions grows on and on 🙂

  • This is so true yet it required many years for me to realize. Now I treasure greeting and holiday cards, and pictures of loved ones. As well as their books and other tangible physical possessions.

    I may be a sentimental woman, but as those I love depart this world or grow older or infirm, it brings comfort to me and many others when I retrieve these small treasures from photo albums and keepsake boxes. I don't stockpile all sorts of stuff, but even one or two items like a book or a copy of a family member's first academic research paper from 40 years ago is enough to elicit exclamations of surprise and draw us closer together. And comfort me when I am alone.

    Thank you, Mr. Mahendra. I'm an emotional statistician, I must confess.

  • Ellie, we are all emotional. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the feedback.

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