I’m going to lead this post off with an assumption (dangerous, I know) that I’m not the only one who occasionally googles my name to see what comes up in the search results. I was doing that very thing this evening and was dismayed by the results. On pages 2 and 3 of the results, I found a string of Internet orphans – blogs and websites I’d abandoned (some which had been dormant since 2004).
A deeper dive into the results showed a total of four blogs that had been lost to time (posts covered topics like fitness, my creative writing program at FSU and preparing for my wedding), as well as a poetry site I’d set up during my senior year in high school (there were some embarrassing gems on that site, let me tell you). The evening’s scavenger hunt yielded an important lesson and reminder, that just like the real world, it’s a good idea to do a thorough scrub of your online presence every once in awhile.
I’ve been a ravenous consumer of online content since the ripe old age of thirteen (bringing us back to 1998 if you’re keeping score), which has given me more time than I care to think about to grow my digital footprint. Couple that time spent online with the natural pull I felt to social applications on the Internet, and that leaves an impressive wake of old data lying around the interwebs for anyone to find.
So what did I do with the Internet orphans who’d found their way into my search results? I welcomed them back home, which ended up being no easy feat. Each of the blogs that I’d created were keyed to a different email address with passwords long forgotten. Though it took me awhile to crack my past self, I eventually came up with the passwords for each of the sites, and promptly archived old posts to my computer for safekeeping. From there, the blogs were deleted one by one.
The poetry site I stumbled across ended up being a tougher nut to crack. As I mentioned, my profile/site within the site was created back in 2002, and the email and corresponding password used to set them up were no longer in existence. Couple that with the fact that this site was built before “recover your password” prompts, and I was in a serious pickle. After ten minutes of fruitless password combinations, I blanked my mind in an attempt to let the old password float to the top of my thoughts. I’m happy to report that my jedi mind trick worked, and I was able to remember the old code. After backing up 51 poems (most of which I fervently hope never resurface), I promptly deleted my profile.
The whole experience tonight actually ended up reminding me of an article I read back in 2011 about protecting your digital afterlife. While it sounds a little macabre, your online presence could very well outlive your corporeal existence (sometimes to you or your family’s detriment) unless you take steps to be a better steward of your digital self and assets. Thankfully in my case, it just ended up being an interesting (and occasionally embarrassing) trip down memory lane.
Have I inspired you to do your own digital excavation? I’d love to hear about what you uncover!