I don’t often write posts with as title a track by Madonna, yet I did last week.
It’s on the Internet, it’s on the blockchain. Maybe it even found its way to Wayback Machine already too. It’s a fact now, a reality. Part of a life, my life.
Some day it may be found by Reddit sleuths and held against me. Probably in an unflattering light because negative out of context taken highlights sell narratives better than the actual context they were used in. That’s life, that’s humankind.
I have been publishing online since before content management systems, before the user generated content era (UGC Web2.0), and definitely since before the Web3.0 blockchains brought us. Almost all of it is saved on cloud storage, a lot of it is on the Wayback Machine, quite some of it is still online and I keep adding to it. Not every day but regularly.
Some self-hosted, some on hosted platforms, and some on the blockchain. Almost all of it eternalized. If not on my own storage, somewhere else. Somebody may even have scraped most of the content I published.
My life is shared on the Internet.
Lots of it reads like a personal diary, a diary I regularly revisit to see where I was at in life back in the day. It helps me in my personal pursuit, in my pursuit of becoming a better person. Because I wasn’t always the person I am now.
In fact, reading what I published several years ago is often a humbling experience. It keeps one on their toes, it keeps one working at .self.
But the reality is that the personal experience is not necessarily what will happen with the content I publish on the Internet. Lots is made of the immutability of blockchains. Their censor-resilience.
Which, of course is a great asset when it comes to topics still brigaded on other platforms, or even the target of deplatforming. Like cannabis communities.
But there’s a risk to it as well.
While most people may not have their site indexed by the Archive.org, or may never attract traffic to it, hosted platforms and blockchains change that. Even platforms like Facebook and Twitter, platforms which may deplatform you and delete your account.
But does the data really disappear from their servers? Do you even realize how much data they have for you? If you’re an Android user, Facebook has all your SMS messages you’ve ever sent since you have the app installed. Deleted them from your phone yet want to reminisce a long lost relationship? Download your facebook profile data and TADA!!!
Maybe you discovered that you behaved like an utter and complete dick in that relationship. Maybe you were a condescending prick. A sexist even.
Those happy days of Twitter trolling, those snarky tweets. Are you sure nobody scraped or screenshotted them? Maybe a deleted tweets archiving site thought you were interesting enough, had enough interaction on your tweets and those deleted tweets are not deleted from the internet.
Luckily you became a better person since, right. And you deleted your FB, your blogs are not online anymore, and you generally moved on. All is well.
Sorry, nothing is well.
Some days ago @acidyo published an excellent post about the immutability of blockchains: Carved in Stone.
Troll Thought provocateur I am, I messaged him about the topic and provided another perspective. The perspective of the Reddit sleuth, the headhunter working for HR departments.
Will you still be proud of what you publish online today… in five years.
We humans evolve. Some can’t help it and prefer to stay in their dinosaurian habits but generally as humans we develop and evolve.
Times change as well.
What you said a decade ago may have been perfectly acceptable and fitted the zeitgeist. But does it still today?
Will it be in a decade?
PC, SJWs, Privilege, MeToo, …
I don’t know about you but I am happy that not everything I ever published online is easily connected together. In 1988 when I was an adolescent and already on internet bulletins boards I wasn’t the same man I am now. Yet, as we have seen in recent months, your yearbook and faults during your youth, possibly in different eras, can come to haunt you.
I am not necessarily proud of some things I said, or wrote, years ago. Even if then they were OK. But they are published online and ready to be taken out of context and used against me at any inconvenient moment for me. Accessible to anyone. Because headlines and controversy sell.
Welcome to the Internet. Here lie waiting lives to tell, carved in stone.