I took my first faltering steps “online” in the mid-90s, courtesy of Trumpet Winsock under Windows 3.1, followed by AOL’s UK Games Chat, doubtless a gateway drug to the life of Usenet and IRC that followed; hoping and pleading that my parents wouldn’t pick up the phone and hear the telltale 14.4 kilobit buzzing that gave away my illicit internet usage.
Isn’t “going online” such a strange notion now, when “offline” is only achieved by bloggers camping in the woods as a publicity stunt; a week without the internet in exchange for their fifteen seconds of internet fame?
Everything I did online in those days, everything I was, is long gone now. IRC logs lost to formatted hard drives; Usenet posts beyond any server’s retention time; my background-MIDI hell of a website that probably died with Geocities. But since the turn of the millennium, something has been happening – the internet is less fleeting; more permanent. The blog was on the rise.
It was a little over ten years ago that I penned this waste of the English language, which has survived a trip from a website of my own concoction, through LiveJournal and Drupal to where it now rests as the oldest entry that has made it to my current blog. (Sadly, I cannot say the same for the HTML formatting or the image to which it once linked.) The follies of my youth (at least, from age 16 onwards) are now preserved for the world to see.
The eighteen-year-old spouting bad philosophy. The nineteen-year-old who wanted to be a child forever. The twenty-year-old that saw himself though the eyes of characters he played. The twenty-one-year-old that thought he’d be with his friends forever, and the twenty-two-year-old that started to realise he wouldn’t. The twenty-four-year-old who geeked out, the twenty-five-year-old that got political, and the twenty-six-year-old who overanalyses his son’s questions.
Nothing is deleted anymore, nothing lost to history. Those thoughts that I don’t commit to bloggery, Twitter and Facebook keep for posterity or for marketing potential.
My son is four now; it won’t be too many years before he’s able to browse the ‘net by himself and to stumble upon his father’s teenage wittering. What will he make of the way I cryptically tried to figure out how to reject his mother when she first asked me out, or the drama-tastic marker I placed in apology for a post I removed – a post made when I was not exactly espousing the virtues expected of a father.
It’s probably the kind of detail he won’t want to know about my life, in much the same way as I’m happy with my lack of knowledge of my own father’s young adulthood. And, briefly, I considered deleting most of it – the personal stuff, at least.
But as I considered it, walking home in the dark, I passed the nursing home that advertises “a special neighbourhood for the memory impaired”. Should I ever get to that point, and should my family not follow my explicit instructions to pack me off to Dignitas the minute I become a burden on them, I can’t think of a better way to hold onto my memories than to have them accessible and searchable from wherever I may be.
Every scrap of drama, every bawling whinge, every pointless meme and every political diatribe made me who I am today, and someday I may be grateful to read it all again.
(Though seriously, I have posted a ton of crap over the years. Man, I should never have been allowed on LiveJournal.)