People who self-destruct their own internet histories (in this case, Twitter).

Once Upon a Time, I used to be a massive digital pack rat. I’ve been blogging since the late 90s–I was literally one of the first hundred-ish users on LiveJournal–and there was a time when I was diligently export and transfer all my posts between one blog and the next. At one point, I had a blog with over ten years worth of archives which is… a lot.

Companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook like to encourage this sort of behaviour, because those companies make profit off user content. The more content you dump into their services, the more use you have to them, and so they encourage a kind of perpetual memory machine. A public perpetual memory machine, at that.

At some point, this struck me as being a really weird way to grow up. Part of growing up is the ability not just to make mistakes and to learn from them, but for those mistakes to them be forgotten. I’m not talking about, like, criminal-level stuff but, yanno. Dumb things that teenagers do and say. Ill-formed opinions and stupid arguments. That kind of thing.

People my age are the first generation who are getting haunted as adults, en masse and in public, by stupid drama they got into when they were teenagers that has been forever preserved on social media. And by “haunted” I don’t mean “people they were mean to are still angry at them”. I mean “people who had nothing to do with the original incident still wank over stuff they read about on LiveJournal fifteen years ago”. And it’s like… maybe there needs to be some kind of statute of limitations on that sort of thing, yanno?1

People make mistakes, they learn, and they move on. But there are a bunch of technologies that’ve emerged in the past twenty years that are starting to make that cycle difficult.

Anyway. The point is that now I do, indeed, auto-delete things on social media, particularly social media which I don’t control. This is why I never seem to have many posts on my Tumblr, for example; they get auto-deleted after a month. I actually don’t auto-delete on Twitter at the moment, mostly because I’ve been too lazy to write a script to do it. I should really… do something about that. Hm.

There’s still a lot of stigma attached to deleting old internet presence stuff; it’s associated with the notion that someone who does it has something to hide. In some cases this is true, but more often than not I think it’s that people have something to move on from. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

(Plus there’s the whole “I’m not sure I want a billion-dollar social media company profiting off dumb stuff I said when I was twenty” angle, too.)

  1. The fact that the level of wanking seems directly proportional to the fame and success of the individual wanked over, versus the lack of such in the individual doing the wanking, is also a notable factor. []