We need to know what we were, where we came from, to know who we are, where we’re going.
This is true of the individual as well as the society, the species.
It’s a powerful thing to crack open your journal from five years ago and be reminded of what you were doing, where you lived, what you read, who you dated, where you went, what you saw, and how you thought and felt about those things.
Now imagine that being taken away from you.
That’s not some kind of scare tactic—actually, I guess it is. When we put things on the internet, they go into our shared memory. When they disappear from the internet—because a site goes down, or because the platform where they were posted changes its terms of service or goes out of business or gets strip-mined for its resources by choose your favourite of the five biggest companies in the world—we lose part of our shared memory. Our shared experience. The thing that binds us together, that makes us human… or at least adds us to the ranks of social animals.
Does that sound too lofty a sentiment to apply to some dumb post you made on Tumblr ten years ago, or your shitty drawing on DeviantArt?
Fine. But why differentiate? The forces that will destroy your creation aren’t going to.
And regardless… the thing you made is YOURS. You MADE it, for fucksake. That’s the greatest power a human being has: to create, whether it’s actual progeny or just a bad poem. You made it, it’s yours. Why should someone else—who doesn’t give a shit, who doesn’t even know you exist—decide to take it away?
They shouldn’t be able to. And as long as we’ve gone to the trouble as a human race to build a worldwide, persistent network of information on which anyone can share anything with anyone else… if you think what I just described is a common good, I have some tough news for you: it needs maintenance, protection, and active, ongoing defence.
Because it is constantly rusting, withering, and being subverted for miserly, avaricious purposes.
I suppose this is a call to donate to the Internet Archive, but, more broadly, to support the people fighting to keep the web open.
Fighting sounds ridiculous right? Like, are they wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles? Well, no, fortunately we haven’t been put in a position like that… most of us.
But there are plenty of interests with more money and power than you have, and they run counter to your own. Unless you think that’s just fine, do something about it. The principles of the Indieweb are the best thing I can think of, that don’t require a lot of money or political power, that are available to everyone in return for some time and some creative effort.
If you don’t think the work of your hands and heart are worth that, well… I’m happy to be the one to tell you you’re wrong.