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On Repeat July 8, 2017

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : The Chip , add a comment

One of the things that I sometimes think about is the effect of really negative things on the internet. Unlike things said aloud, in the offline world, such things are not said just once, and then left to human memory to blur or lose. They are repeated every time somebody encounters them online. Over, and over. And over.

People say the internet never forgets. I don’t think that is a 100% valid experience. A file or data entry might become obscured by time, and uncollected by¬†backups and scrapes, eventually disappear from view at least, whether it still lies in computer memory somewhere or not.

Nevertheless, there can be a strongly enhanced degree of persistence. And worse, a massively enhanced degree of repetition. If you insult somebody, your insult is repeated every time it is reread, forever.

Unless it is removed. As noted, “removed” might not be absolute. However, the internet is full of things. The fewer places a negative post appears, the more obscure it is, the fewer times it is likely to be encountered. If it is removed quickly enough, perhaps no audience will ever actually experience it. Even if it remains in a database, a moderator may never read it.

Okay, but history is important, too. We learn from history. At least we should learn from history. Is a personal attack on the internet a good piece of history? Is it beneficial to keep broadcasting over and over, forever?

Do you really want somebody to remain exactly the person they were when they posted that terrible thing 10 years ago? Or do you hope that they will change for the better?

Even if they do change for the better, what about that post, made before the change? How many more times should it attack somebody with the frozen in time stance from when it was written?