Stuff that Happened

On the eve of Facebook’s historic initial public offering, everyone from NPR’s “On the Media” to the New York Times Opinion pages is reminding us that “Facebook is Using You” and that your browsing history can redline you more insidiously than a dicey zip code.

The above image is a screen capture of my browser’s drop-down History display. It’s a historical record of the sites I most recently visited. A quick look will reveal very little of any significance, which is probably a good thing. (On the other hand, you notice I’m not revealing my “Full History.” Ahem.) What’s the difference between Facebook’s “historic” event and my “historical” record? Even before it happens, Facebook’s IPO is deemed to be historic, i.e., important. My browser history is decidedly not important, even if I’m denied credit because guitar players are notoriously poor risks. Stuff that happened but that’s not important is historical.

With that in mind, here are two statements that describe historical events. Only one of these events is historic, and I’ll bet you know which one it is.

  • Last night I played my Fender Stratocaster for 20 minutes.
  • The Fender Stratocaster was introduced in 1954.

Here are two more:

  • I first played a Stratocaster in 1974.
  • Eric Clapton first played a Stratocaster in 1963.

OK, I could have gotten the year wrong, but the point is that Eric Clapton’s first encounter with a Stratocaster long ago made the transition from historical to historic. Mine didn’t, and never will. Since an event’s transition from historical to historic can be based on its impact, be mindful that whatever you do or share online should reflect well on you —at least from this point forward. Remember: like a diamond, the Internet is forever.

Paranoia: Baseless — i.e., not supported by evidence — suspicion or mistrust of a person or entity.

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