I don't WANT the Internet to forget!

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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© Anthony Lawrence

Fri Oct 23 18:29:49 2009: 7344   BrettLegree

My thoughts exactly.

We all make mistakes, we all have quirks, skeletons, whatever.

Many people have said to me that they cannot believe I am willing to say anything on the internet, lest I apply for a job in the future and am turned down because the company did a search.

You know - it goes both ways, if they don't want me to work for them because of something I did on *my time*, then I don't want to work for them either, because the company has some serious trust issues.

Besides - if I wanted to "get some dirt" on a person, all I would need is a name and address. Smear campaigns existed long before the internet.

Sat Oct 24 14:47:50 2009: 7347   BigDumbDinosaur

Smear campaigns existed long before the internet.

Yes, but the Internet has facilitated them in ways that were heretofore impossible.

As far as whether data retention should be indefinite, that's ultimately a matter of capacity. While I don't foresee us running out of capacity in the immediate future, I suspect older information will disappear simply because someone somewhere at sometime will deem said information to no longer be of sufficient value to retain. Or, some bean counter will say we don't need to spend money and put more disks into the server. Just get rid of some data that is of limited value/interest.

Meanwhile, be careful of what you say and do in public (or "private" in some cases). Don't videotape that orgiastic sexual encounter you had with the neighbor's wife. Odds are it'll end up on U-Toobe, Facebook, etc., and come back to haunt you.

Sat Oct 24 17:00:56 2009: 7348   BrettLegree

"Yes, but the Internet has facilitated them in ways that were heretofore impossible."

Of course - my angle on this (which I didn't expand upon) was more along the lines of "just because it is easy to do something i.e. run a 'morality check' on someone via Google, doesn't mean we should".

Another example - where I work (and where many people work no doubt), management hits employees over the head about "wasting time on the internet using company resources".

Let's face it, people have been wasting time on the job long before computers existed. Reading newspapers, chatting, etc. - by and large, though, the work got done.

But now that it's easy to track one particular "time wasting method"... they pound it into our heads, over and over again.

I get paid to think, sometimes I need a break. I used to surf to tech sites that would - OMG! - expand my knowledge.

But the groovy new system they're using is becoming more and more restrictive. So you know what I do?

Get up from my desk, take a walk. Get a coffee. Chat with someone.

Still gives my brain a break. But I don't learn as much. Oh well, their loss.

Back to the privacy thing - yes, be careful what you do in private lest it end up online and you lose your job.

You know what I say to that, then?

Bring on the mind reading equipment.


Let's read everyone's minds, so that we're all on an even keel.

I wonder how many politicians and C-level executives would be willing to let us in on *their* dirty little secrets?


Mon Oct 26 13:53:54 2009: 7350   RickBrandfass

It is amazing that so many people who post things on the internet don't take longevity into consideration. This can be seen in the available articles, blogs, etc. which do not have a visible post date. Sometimes it is impossible to tell if an article is one week or one decade old. Most of the time, it makes a difference.

Mon Oct 26 14:25:30 2009: 7351   TonyLawrence

Sometimes it is impossible to tell if an article is one week or one decade old. Most of the time, it makes a difference.

True. I was guilty of that here. I did have a link at the bottom that would get the original date, but that was inconvenient. A few years back I started putting the date right under the title and have updated many older articles to the same standard. There are still a few old posts out there without those dates, but I fix 'em as I catch 'em.

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