I was thinking today about Internet and ephemera and archiving ... specifically, thinking about it in the context of my realname blogging. I want to start blogging more on my website
. I used to use layla
for that, but whereas the purpose of this LJ/DW is just to hang out and chat with people, the purpose of my realname blog is at least partly to be noticed, or to do stuff careerwise, and with the general Internet population migrating away from LJ clones as a platform (and also away from blogging, but SHHHHHH) I figured I'd start doing more on Wordpress for the time being.
Anyway, one of the things that's been stopping me from writing Serious Author Posts is the idea of putting all that work and effort into writing a thing, when it stands a very real chance of being gone in five years due to yet another site upgrade or a Wordpress crash or migrating to yet another platform or god knows. I want to write stuff that I can archive and go find fifteen years from now ...
But then I got to thinking about how much is still around from fifteen years ago
, let alone how often I have the urge to go looking through it, and realized the answer is "very little" and "almost never". Most of my online presence prior to when I got on LJ in 2006 is gone now. The Sequential Tart message boards, where I spent so much time in 2000-2004, were deleted awhile back. Some years ago I deleted the Trigun Yahoo group I used to run in the early 2000s, because it'd been dead for years, was getting overrun with spam and I was sick of dealing with it. (I don't think I've ever felt bad about that, either.) The Talkaboutcomics message boards, where I ran a Kismet board for awhile, got deleted after the site owner died. I suppose the archives of some of the mailing lists I was on in the '90s still exist, if they were hosted on a relatively stable site (I know the World-Building mailing list archives were still being saved as recently as a few years ago) but I don't care enough to go find out.
.... and that's the thing, really. I don't think I realized how little I mind all of that old stuff being gone, all my old message board posts and emails and so forth. For the most part, I just don't have any desire to go reread any of it. Conversations are things of the moment, and rereading what basically amounts to transcripts of old conversations is just something I don't find myself doing, like, ever.
web pages and blog posts are something a bit different, or my own posts about my projects and fiction (I save all the stuff I've ever written, too, because that's still interesting and useful to me). And sometimes it's fun to rediscover an old joke I haven't read in ten years, or stumble across an old comment exchange and go, "Oh, that's the first time I ever talked to so & so!" But mostly ... I dunno. Those old conversations are dry as dust to me now. I don't recognize myself in them, for the most part -- actually, no, it's worse than that; running across an old comment thread involving a younger me is mostly a squirm-inducing exercise in second-hand embarrassment.
Number of times I have reread my teenage diaries as an adult: never.
It seems like the general trend online at the present time is towards more ephemeral modes of communication: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and various Twitter-like chat things that operate via phone (I feel so terribly old
saying that; I don't even know the names
of the current hangout hotspots!). They're difficult or impossible to search through; once things drop off the current page, they're gone, for the most part. And I think a lot of us older folks feel a bit threatened by that. I know I do.
But actually, conversations are ephemeral by their nature. Conversations in real life certainly are. I think those of us who got on the Internet during a particular time in its history (mid-90s to mid-00s) ended up with a skewed sort of idea of the Internet as this thing that was constantly archiving us, freezing all our correspondence, taking continual snapshots of our social lives from day to day. And we thought we'd want to keep that stuff around forever, but ...
But I'm starting to think it's no coincidence that the generation that grew up steeped in a ubiquitous Internet are also the ones who view Internet text as a transitory thing. And I'm pretty sure they're right. Conversations are things of the moment. They're to participate in, not to reread in detail. There are some
conversations that are worth saving (working out plot details, say, for me as a writer; some particular memory-archiving; stuff like that) but most online conversations aren't any more worth saving than you'd bother going around tape-recording every conversation you have with your friends just in case you want to listen to the tapes again someday. There might be a certain amount of nostalgia in it, but even when it's some sort of irreplaceable social experience like, say, rereading the words of a person who's now dead and gone, trying to recapture how you felt when you were with them back then, it's just kind of sad
, more than positive. They wouldn't want you to be rereading all your old conversations with them! They'd want you to go out and have new conversations and find new things to be happy about.
I dunno if this is just me. Maybe other people go through their old LJ archives more than I do? I guess I've spent most of my life obsessively hoarding anything that had any sort of emotional value to me -- old letters, papers, diaries, emails -- only to realize, now that I'm approaching (help)
middle age, that I almost never look through it and I don't think it would actually be a positive thing if I did
spend a lot of time looking through it. For me I think it's more beneficial than not that most of my old online correspondence -- the old message boards, the archives of the email address I had in college, etc -- is all gone now. It's hard for me to throw it away myself, but I don't miss it once it's gone.
ETA: Talking about this with Orion, I think the paradigm shift here, for me, might be from thinking of the Internet as a thing that's full of stuff you keep, versus thinking of it as something you do.