The Internet Is Disappearing and I Don't Like It
And on the comment these words appear:
'My name is [deleted] King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains.
Prompted by the admin-deletion of a quality contributor to this subreddit. They even had a User Viewpoint Focus post.
I get a sinking feeling when I browse the web these days. There it stands: one of mankind's great modern achievements, teeming with precious knowledge, unique opinions, valuable perspectives
... and it's disappearing faster than I can process it.
The internet is much more ephemeral than it used to be. Growing up on the tubes, there was an expectation that if you posted something, it would last. It would stand the test of time - not forever. All sites die eventually. - but when it did go, you could be reasonably sure it was 'lost', not 'intentionally removed'. Blogs were owned by their creators or hosted by hands-off providers. Sites like Reddit were formed with strong free speech principles. Even well-kept gardens like moderated phpbb forums tended to let people speak their minds. They might ban someone, yes, but the bannable posts would remain as a warning to others. It feels like over the past decade, that expectation is being turned on its head at an accelerating pace.
Now, nothing can be trusted to last.
- On Twitter, posts and accounts regularly disappear within days or even hours of being shared
- On Youtube, "This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated." - The title, description, comments, all gone.
- On Reddit, comments and images are deleted often. Entire user accounts disappear without warning. Entire subreddits go from 'problematic' to 'quarantined' to 'banned' in short order.
- On blogs and other platforms, there is now the threat of being cut off at a lower level of hosting. (Eg. AWS)
- It's not just for controversial stuff either. Even non-political historical questions are not safe.
My browsing habits are 'wide, then deep'. Save anything potentially interesting in a tab or bookmark and do a thorough read later once I have time or once discussion has settled. I've noticed more and more when I go back to those tabs and bookmarks, they're just gone! [deleted], [deleted], [removed by moderator], or vanished without even a hint of what was there in the first place.
This is distressing! I'm robbed of whatever knowledge or insight I didn't read immediately. I mourn the loss both for me, and others.
Sometimes deleted text is pereserved by archive.org but often not. Sometimes a forward-thinking user manages to save a copy of some amazing covers before the musician mysteriously pulls all their content and leaves the internet. Again though, often not.
Sites' built-in 'save' features are no help. It doesn't matter if you saved some music or podcast to your library in Spotify. It can be removed the next week due to licensing. It doesn't matter if you 'saved' a reddit comment for reference, as I did with many of the abovementioned mottizen's posts. If the admins or mods or the user themselves wants it gone, it is gone. It almost makes me want to drop everything and dedicate myself to physically storing all content I ever interact with.
But that sort of runs up against the right to remove one's own work. It's not all mod/admin/owner censorship. There's self-editing too. The old question of the right to destroy one's own art.
I've never liked it but accept that if people no longer want to be associated with thing's they've written, it seems unfair to prevent them from taking them down. There was a motte user - /u/j9461701 , I think? - that used to make interesting posts from a unique perspective here.. and then periodically went back and deleted half of them. Agh! Please don't! Still, I guess that's their choice..
Still, it's sad somehow. It's a similar feeling I get when I see the destruction or vandalism of anything that took human effort.
I don't know where I'm going with this, but the internet is disappearing and I don't like it.