it's not easy to stay true

i look at this page sometimes and marvel at the time that's passed. it's nearly six years since i published the first incarnation of the house of fun. i think it was about six documents all up. i don't even recall what they were. back in 1996 i set out to learn html; it took about two weeks to put something online, starting from zero knowledge and no content.

the house lived on a friend's server for a short time, before moving to my ISP's standard account webspace. i think the allowance was two megs, and that was generous at the time. shortly after that, i moved to college and couldn't access my old account, so the house moved to my uni account's web space, a whopping five megs. then i graduated; so this time it moved to geocities, who offered something like seven megs. then geocities changed their Terms & Conditions and i moved it to Tripod; who offered a more generous nine megs. it's still on Tripod now, despite the popups. i can't afford my own domain yet.

but the really weird thing is looking back at what i wrote. i was a teenager, not a happy one of course; few teens are actually happy. so i let my angst out on what was a pretty obscure medium at the time. now i look back and it doesn't seem like me - the words are on the page but it's like someone else wrote it. it's a very strange sensation.

i read the pages and think... this is not me, not any more. this person is as Other to me as a stranger in the street.

the temptation is to start deleting. i've been over this question before - do i delete those words? they're already published, they're already out there. the current story doing the rounds is how sites get cached, they get "googled". google stores a copy of pages as it indexes them, providing what some people see as a valuable service; but to others it removes control they thought they had.

i don't pretend that i have such control.

i work full time in web design, so i have plenty of opportunity to ponder the realities of the web. one of them is that you can no more take back your words on the web, than you can recall every last copy of a book. someone, somewhere has your site's URL jotted down in their notebook; they might even have made a copy of something you said.

so why fight it? why not fight it? after all, i can take down the pages anytime i like. no more people can see them after that and realistically nobody (other than google) will have bothered to make a copy. but the fact remains that i put those words out there. taking them back now is like trying to pretend i was never an angsty teen. but then, living with those words is like endorsing them; when the truth is i've grown up, moved on beyond those dark teenage moods.

in ten years i'll probably cringe at my 20-whatever angst. but right now i believe and mean what i say. as much as anything else, this page is a reminder to myself about where i've been; what i've said and done. it doesn't capture everything, hell it doesn't capture much at all. but it does have photos of things i've seen, people i've shared my life with. it captures thoughts, poetry, prose; moments from my mind committed to file.

i can't deny my own past, so it makes no sense to delete my old web content. perhaps one day i'll segment it into nice little categories - the teenager years; the 20s; 30s; 49 forever. one day i may delete the whole lot. but i can't predict who i'll be in the future nor what i'll think.

so, for now, everything stays. most likely i will end up creating a vault-style area. a suitable home for those pages which won't be developed further, because they relate to a part of my life which has passed.

it's hard to resist taking the old words offline. but i was willing to put them out there in the first place; so i should follow it through now and keep the resolve to maintain them. for now at least, i find it in myself to stay true to the person i used to be.

what occurs to me though is that with the massive livejournal/weblog craze; how many people have thought this through? with the incredibly personal (or simply mundane) information people are pouring out onto the web, what will happen in a few years... when the craze is over? one day it won't be fashionable to have a web journal; but instead of a personal diary which you can keep under the bed or in an old shoebox, every thought you've put out there is still out there. no matter what you think now, somewhere out there is a record of what you thought about something or someone back then.

it won't matter that there was a craze, since nobody's going to remember that. it will just be you; your thoughts, in plain view. you're going to have to live with it. you're going to have to accept that even though you've changed since then, that was you at the time. it's not an easy moment to go through. i find it quite hard to accept that yes, i really did say that. i really did think that.

as the years go on, it's not easy to stay true.

2002.08.06

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