All Ephemeral Everything

July 23, 2015

Everything published on the Internet stays on the Internet. Until it doesn’t.

Take, for instance, The Miller Times (R.I.P., 2008 ~ 2013), my personal blog to which I was a faithful contributor on a daily — then weekly, then monthly — basis, until my identity was stolen and I pulled the cord. Now, an .XML file containing five years of dopey meanderings sits on a jump drive somewhere in my office, the domain upon which it once resided long since replaced with what appears to be a Japanese site devoted to “blood type fortune-telling.”

Maybe the Internet doesn’t have to be some digital wasteland full of perilous hoarders. (And that’s a good thing!)

I admit, I resisted at first, but I am starting to warm to the idea of Snapchat, but more specifically, the rise of ephemeral online media. The notion that everything published on the Internet — including social media posts, photos, videos, comments and even blog posts like this one — should remain without an expiration date all of the sudden seems unnecessary.

I have tweeted more than 10,000 messages, dating back to 2010. I have zero interest in going back to read any of them. (I can’t imagine why anybody would.) If every last one of my tweets happened to disappear, what would really be lost?

“It’s your history!” an Internet purist might say.

My tweets hold no personal value to me now. Why would they years from now? And why would there need to be a very public and digital record of them? So I can scroll back in time on my iPhone 47s and show my grandkids all of the inconsequential things their grandfather tweeted back in the ’20s?

“But imagine if the Internet existed 100 years ago and we could revisit the national discourse of the times!”

Look, man, I just like to write some snark online now and then. No need to make it a part of some anthropological dig. I am sure there will be plenty of talented authors in the future who will synthesize the times quite adequately without my tweets.

The other day as I was reading about a particularly vile media outlet facing major internal strife, I mentioned to Idea Peepshow editor-in-chief Alex Gaterud how I will often write comments or tweets, but ultimately delete them in fear of blowback. What I really wish for is an Internet abyss — a permanent drafts folder where I can have the satisfaction of typing a hot take, clicking “Post” and walking away like I really said something. In truth, the message would go nowhere. And against all odds, Earth would continue to rotate on its axis.

Turns out those millennials and their so-called “snaps” may signal major changes ahead for the way we think about the Internet. If I had it my way, this blog post wouldn’t exist in five years, even if it meant I would have no proof I once told you so.