I was listening to an NPR show about internet privacy and the "worrysome" fact that internet information lasts forever. The very forgettable guest being interviewed was harping on "forgetting" - he apparently wants us to be able to set retention dates for things the Internet knows about us. Callers chimed in with stories of real and potential embarrassment from discretions and more serious actions that their boss, their children or their spouses might accidentally discover while bumbling about the Internet. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!
I don't agree.
If you want to go digging around, you can find some "embarrassing" stuff about me on the Internet. That is, you'd find stuff that you might THINK would embarrass me and probably would embarrass whoever that "let's forget it" guy is and apparently could upset some of the people who called in all worried about something they said or did in 1994. As for me, I don't care. If you aren't smart enough to realize that EVERYBODY has skeletons in their closet, that EVERYBODY has been petty, vain, jealous, stupid, dishonest, and worse, why would I care what you think about me?
Wouldn't we all be better off if we stopped pretending that we are perfect or even close to it? I'm not saying we shouldn't strive toward not being jackasses, not doing dumb things. I'm saying we should accept that we are human, we do screw up and we and everyone else just need to get over it.
Maybe if everyone's "dirt" was always easily dredged up we could dispense with this fantasy of saintly people passing through their oh-so-perfect lives without any stain of error. Maybe if nobody could hide their indiscretions and mistakes, our children would better know how to avoid or mitigate their own?
Say it with me now: I can be a jackass and so can everyone else. I have done stupid things, cruel things, idiotic things and so has everyone else. Anyone who presents a perfect facade to the world has dirt behind the curtain and is lying to us overtly or by omission.
If I'm trying to find out what kind of person you are and I come up with nothing, what have I learned? What are the possibilities? Either you've been really sneaky and secretive or you are such a timid, inactive and uninvolved person that you've never had an opportunity to screw up. Do I really like either of those? No.
Let's stop being phony. People screw up. Maybe there are a few untainted people somewhere, but most of us wouldn't like them because they probably have no fire, no spark, nothing to make them interesting. They walk through life so carefully, so fearful of error - what clods!
So no, I don't want the internet to forget anything about me. I want it all preserved forever. I want my future relatives to be able to learn things about me that I can't learn about my ancestors. I want future historians to have a treasure trove of data that will tell them societal secrets that are almost never known about past generations. I don't WANT the Internet to forget!
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© 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence