As shifting and ever-changing as the internet is, it is also quite disconcerting to me just how hard it is to shake off the traces of my movements through the web. Yes, I can delete my account on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or whatever, but I can almost as easily revive it, with all of my information still intact.
I see the World Wide Web like I see spider webs. Once you’re in it, it’s nearly impossible to get out. I have never seen the internet as some sort of pseudo-reality that can be wiped clean with a simple click of the mouse or a few taps on a keyboard. Even when sites have been taken down, pieces of myself can still be dug up among the rubble, especially with internet archives and all the different tracking mechanisms.
I still remember when I was in elementary school, waiting eternities for Netscape to load on my foot-deep home monitor. Then, and now, pets were banned from my family’s apartment complex. No matter how often or insistently I pleaded for a dog or cat to care for, all my parents could do was shrug helplessly. When my family got our first home computer second-hand from a friend, I signed up for as many virtual pet websites as I could, giving away my personal information to whoever could offer me a pixelated dog or dragon or strange alien hybrid. When my parents found out, they began to tell me identity theft horror stories and sufficiently terrified, I tried to delete all of my newly made accounts. My attempts were often futile, as many of the websites were still in their beta testing phases and didn’t provide their users with the option to delete their accounts. But even though I was able to remove some of those accounts, it still worries me that, someone, somewhere, has everything they might need to ruin my life.