Digital Tattoos: Social Media Brands You Forever

In his TED talk ‘Immortality, Big data, and Tattoos’, Juan Enriquez makes a compelling argument that “Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame is no more. Google, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and other electronic tattoos may be a path to immortality, whether you want it or not.”

I have written in the past about a future digital mirror app. To summarize, this ‘app’ would allow you to interface and communicate with the sum of all your digital life, this digital mirror, or representation of everything that has ever been collected online about your persona. It would allow you to see the tattoos imprinted from every late night status update that you regretted the next morning, each Tweet that you wished you could take back, and every drunken email sent to an ex or hated colleague. All of these interactions have and will continue to imprint and reflect who we are externally for the world to see.

Amazon ImageMost people take the time to choose carefully how they want to ink their skin, knowing they will have it forever. We live in a day and age where the same goes for anything and everything you do in your digital life. It’s shallow, but in society, when a fully tattooed individual walks into a public area, judgments are cast about who that person is internally.  The NSA and governments around the world have the access and ability to make those same shallow judgments about your online persona. They act upon this data, just like a bouncer in a club would pay more attention to an individual with tattoos over his face and body. Recent headlines about people’s houses being raided due to searches made on Google show that this is not in the future, but currently happening now.

This leads us into a series of interesting questions to ask ourselves. Have we taken the conscious effort to chose our digital tattoos carefully? When we have access to this digital mirror and reflect upon the tattoos we have imprinted ourselves with, will we be happy with what we see? Even if this is sounding like a scary proposition, that’s the reality we are facing. Use the anxiety felt from what you are soon to see to help curate and dictate how you want yourself reflected in this new online world. That reflection will last far longer than your skin, bones, body or mind. Our Facebook walls and Twitter streams are the new headstones.


Kevin, who also goes by the moniker ‘Techno-Optimist’, is a philosopher, futurist, researcher, lecturer, and the Executive Director of He enjoys educating and speaking optimistically about the future and technology. Follow him on Twitter @TechnoOptimist

3 Responses

  1. This is interesting, thanks. One criticism that could be made of your tattoo analogy, especially the bit about people covered in tattoos being judged because of it: surely that’s largely due to the fact that they’re covered in tattoos, and only secondarily (if at all) due to the content of the tattoos. But in the social media scenario, we’re all covered in tattoos! Or at least very many of us, and in very various social positions. So there’s nothing strongly analogous in this scenario to the stigma of simply being covered in tattoos.

  1. September 3, 2013

    […] Peter In his TED talk ‘Immortality, Big data, and Tattoos’, Juan Enriquez makes a compelling argument […]

  2. September 7, 2013

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