June 15 2015 08:36 AM

This is how we say goodbye on the Internet


Nearly six years ago, I moved from New Mexico to fill a staff writer opening at CityBeat. I was immediately welcomed to town by local lefty rabble-rouser Frank Gormlie of OB Rag, who mocked the paper for hiring an out-of-towner to cover local issues. 

Within a few years, I believe I won over Frank, and I was ready to go native. But I was aggravated when I discovered San Diego wasn't all that interested in keeping me around. As much as I love CityBeat, I'd reached the point where I needed to grow. There was nothing for me locally. 

So, I left for San Francisco in 2013 and became worse than a carpet-bagger. I was a long-distance telecommuter, keeping this column as my last vestige. Frank didn't seem to mind, but now I have decided it's time to let go—if only to escape all the overly ambitious New Year's resolutions I promised you in January. 

I will, however, leave you with a series of probably unhelpful, but definitely contradictory, words of wisdom as you click your way toward whatever singularity or techpocalypse lies just over the horizon.

The world is so much bigger now. I look back on my youth and wonder how much smarter, well-rounded, more comfortable in my geeky interests I would have been if I'd been able to log onto the Internet and found that there were whole dispersed communities of people like me and gigantic libraries of culture to access. Instead of being a maker or an activist or a blogger, I was a mallrat. 

The world is so much smaller now. It seems like everyone I've ever met has now met each other independently of me. I see them tweeting to each other, sitting on panels together, receiving the same fellowships. Maybe that's the nature of the tech/media community, but still it's damned unnerving. You can't treat people like you'll never see them again, because you will, over and over and over again, and they will remember. 

Everything should be free. If you're an artist or creator, you should endeavor to make your writing, music or movies as openly available as possible. It ultimately will not work in your favor to embrace a class system for creativity, where only those with disposable income have broad access to culture. No one gains, except maybe lawyers, when artists try to punish their fans for being fans. 

You should pay for everything you love. Prior sentiment aside, if you have disposable income, it's only ethical for you to kick some funds to the artists you love. This doesn't mean simply paying the asking price for the digital download. I mean truly becoming a patron. When you're a teenager, a student, a worker earning hand-to-mouth, then I believe you should be off the hook. But once you hit upon success in your career, pay it backwards. 

You should never Google your exes. This is a creepy thing to do and unless you use some sort of anonymity software, you may very well get caught. But using anonymity software to search for your exes is even more creepy. 

You should occasionally search for your exes on Google News. I learned this the hard way this summer, when I received a message that a woman I dated briefly 15 years ago had died suddenly and tragically. Because I never looked her up, I missed what had been an incredible career doing inspiring things in dangerous places around the world. Now it's too late. 

Everything you do lives forever on the Internet. Conversations online aren't like conversations in the real world. They're archived, cached, data-mined, and stored in backups, and no matter how much you may want to take them back, there's no guaranteeing they'll disappear. Even your activities, like searching and browsing, could end up in some data broker's file. 

Everything you do doesn't stay forever on the Internet. Some of the best articles I've ever written have vanished from the Internet when online publishers have folded or switched over to new content management systems. If you do want something to continue existing, whether it's your own or something else's, download it or submit it to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. Now, all I need to do is take my own advice.

Email davem@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter @Maassive.


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