Deep in the bowels of my hard drive, I've stumbled upon a back-up of an old blog from my youth. In one charmingly quaint post, I proudly announce my arrival on an exciting new social network website thing: Myspace.
Remember Myspace? It all seems such a long time ago now. Before Facebook came along like a glorified Friends Reunited for Oxbridge graduates; before Instagram filtered an entire generation into greenish little squares; before Twitter confused us with its peculiar constraints and pitchforks. Here was your own personal plot on the internet, and endearingly unsightly social CV with which to connect with friends and strangers (and some guy called Tom), driven by that most valuable, universal cultural currency: taste in pop music.
It was chronological and comprehensible and charmingly innocuous. Can internet be bucolic? I think it was bucolic. At least, that's how it looks through this rose-tinted hindsight. Spurred by nostalgia, I've decided to revisit my old profile, to see what online me used to look like.
Or at least an approximation of me. Little remains of what Myspace once was. Multiple acquisitions, redesigns and pivots have mutated it beyond recognition. It's very much the Trigger's broom of social media. It no longer has any evidence of me ever having existed. However there is a capture of it in the Wayback Machine archive; just a snapshot, a faded memory of my profile from one day in April 2006. It'll do.
Some elements remain: obsessively curated lists of favourite bands and films and books; a pretentious literary quote in my bio; a truncated column of comments, fragments of inane, deeply meaningful conversation. Mostly there's just lots of dead links and little boxed question marks quizzically suggesting where images and videos once existed. It's an abandoned house, all creaking floorboards and cobwebs. Interactions, opinions, signs of life, all gone.
(Perhaps most heartbreaking of all: nothing remains of the fussed-over and cobbled-together CSS customisations that, for some reason, we were allowed to shoehorn into the site. Undoubtedly the first baby steps of many a professional coder).
This is only twelve years later. The original Myspace was huge. And yet it's existence is almost entirely anecdotal. All we have are mentions in old blog posts, articles, jokes, a weirdly dated mention in the first Iron Man. An entire social network – at the time, the social network – can now only be inferred from the impression left by its impact.
This isn't how we were promised computers would work! Our digital selves will be immovable, everlasting, job-interview-scupperingly indelible! Immortality of the written word! Right? No? No.
By now it's pretty bloody apparent that user-created content is now either ephemeral – digital footprints washed away by the tide of progress – or sold to the highest bidder and nefariously used against us by megalomaniacs. The internet is facing a crisis of identity, so how best to reclaim our own little territory online? Blogs, good old fashioned blogs, offer some semblance of security, but many still rely on the whims of the platforms that host them. Or how about Myspace Classic? That could be fun. For a week or so.
Perhaps the best thing that's emerged from all of this impermanence is from an even older cornerstone of the internet: the burgeoning newsletter scene. Emails aren't going anywhere any time soon. The content isn't held in one place – it's multiplied and dispersed, a thousand messages in bottles. What goes in them and where they go is entirely up to you. Your emails are blank canvases. They are your space.
Now then, has anyone got Tom's email address?
Written for Creative Review