Reflecting on the past decade, 7.6 years of which I have spent checking E2 nearly daily, I can imagine life without it, though I cannot easily break myself of the habit. My life before E2 is in that fog of sometime back then, when things were not like they are now. We are all different as time forces us to be.
Back then I was younger and married. My children all lived at home.
In many ways I used E2 to chronicle the emotional disaster in my life. Consequently I found support. I made friends, at least one of which is now among the best I have, lifelong. Were it not for E2 I would have not found certain publishers and supporters for my writing. I would have written much less, and been much less confident about it.
While I personally miss the company of many of the former denizens of this site, I can't say that the current group is any more or less talented or interesting. I do not pine for the lore of E2 - the scandal of Butterfinger McFlurry, or the legal threats of the SEF team that scattered in fury after raising the bar triggered a revolution.
As we move into yet another decade, we question : what will be the space for E2 on the digital game board? It lacks the bandwidth and coloration of the Facebooks and Blogspots and the cultural impact of the Second Lifes or the challenge of Warcraft.
It's sort of like the newspaper that gets dropped on my driveway every day. It gets thinner and thinner. Lots of days we don't even take off the rubber band, because we've already been force fed the contents by cable news talking heads and regular iPhone updates.
The digital age doesn't mean we don't like libraries. It doesn't mean we don't want to hold something electrically inert to glean information. But we should stop kidding ourselves about the universal significance of things we hold important. My girlfriend is a journalist. She is out of work. She says she doesn't want to live in a world without newspapers. These personal facts do not boost the subscriber base of the San Jose Mercury News or the New York Times print edition.
Dare I say, the time will come when we will have a world without the daily news distributed on low-grade paper.
Our parents and grandparents bemoaned change. Plutarch quotes the same of the Caesars.
But the rate of change now, exceeds that of any prior generation. So even in our lifetimes the change that was thrust upon us that we grew to love is now superseded, and then that superseding change itself surpassed, over and over.
In my own lifetime I have seen computers shrink from the size of small homes, to the size of a toaster, to the size of a playing card. Pocket-based computing is the stuff of science fiction of the 80's, when I was in college.
What then is the future for E2?
I predict that E2, as we currently know it, is a cultural anomaly that has passed its peak. It exists now, primarily through the good graces of the University of Michigan and Professor Lampe. When he moves on to other academic pursuits, the disks may spin down and the database will be forgotten in a box somewhere in the home office that remains of Blockstackers.
We will miss it because we were here and it used to be us.
I, for one, find an entire joyous and often painful segment of my past logged here. I can't write as much now as I used to. But I feel a part of the history of this ethereal, ephemeral part of the digital record. Some day it will be gone.
Perhaps it's because I realize now more than ever, as I get older, that I'm not destined to breathe forever, either. Some day I will be gone.
But the digital irrelevance of E2 does not undermine its inherent value. There is the need in many of us to write and be heard. Moreso than aimless blogging. Today, anyone can write and be read by hundreds. What is needed is to write and be appreciated.
E2 has been one of the greatest gifts to me as a writer. I have received here some remarkable validation. Perhaps one of the greatest is this: a couple months ago I received an e-mail from a physician who had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Africa. She told me that in her darkest times, when the suffering and misery she confronted was overwhelming, that she would make her way into town for respite. There she would visit an internet cafe, come here to E2, and among many things, read my work.
Now that she was back from her tour, she thanked me for it. It helped her find reason to continue.
I realized then, as I do now, that it is possible that all the inner yearning I have had to write for the sum and total of my years could have been entirely for the purpose of helping that physician in Africa so she could help others. If so, I am happy for what E2 has enabled.
You see, I need never write another word.