Mmm, the Internet: history’s largest curate’s egg. Whether it eventually makes angels or devils of us, we may yet discover that we have – to borrow and re-apply an expression coined by Chris Anderson in Wired back in 2004 – grown long tails.
Hints of reverse evolution aside, a large percentage of our online words are still out there: and, whether or not we mean them now as we did then, erasing them is mostly a black art. And often an art where out most potent technique is praying – for the death of a server, the decline of a social media platform, the ruthless cull of an archivist’s mouse.
I was used to the idea that this concerns us at work – I’ve written blog posts about it. (I still quite like the title of one of them: It’s behind you – what pantomime might have warned us about modern media. But if I re-read it now, will I disagree with my 2009 self? If you read it now, will you hold me to every word? Time-travel requires a strong stomach and a level head.) But it isn’t just HR departments and recruiters who might look at our timelines and chortle up a convenient sleeve.
Even in a ‘pull’ medium, where we can tell ourselves only the people actively searching it out will ever find it, things turn up. Little fragments of us are out there in the digital ether:blessing or curse, our recent pasts are being preserved.
I was googling ‘creative writing as therapy’ – partly because I currently suspect the two things are different and do each other’s jobs fairly poorly (but ask me again some other time) – when I found a link to a Guardian podcast from January this year. Maybe as a blogger, I now move partly in Internet time, but that feels like an eternity ago.
I certainly can’t remember everything I said to interviewer Richard Lea, who was visiting the Birkbeck Creative Writing MA course and talking to many of us. As an edited version goes, my slightly croaky statement that:
There’s a sense of reward and fulfilment just from … doing well”
is still ok by me, but I should perhaps be grateful most of what I might have said didn’t make the cut. (Course colleagues – including @angelashoosmith as well the tutors – were both more eloquent and more informative about the process.)
But whether I’d still stand by my words, there are plenty of wise ones by others in the podcast – it’s still online for those who like their history on the recent side.