The internet owns our words.
Anyone can pull up an old Tweet or Facebook post and show you ‘this is what you said.’ The internet makes permanent the written word.
But such posts are usually “naked and without context.”
Words get lost in time
It’s not that people don’t look at the time stamp; it’s that words get lost in time. They are instantly indexable. They can be copy-pasted with a click, reemerging from the abyss of dormancy.
Writes Peter Pomerantsev in his article “Pay For Your Words”:
“There is a sense that words have slipped the leash. We think we’re expressing ourselves, but actually we’re just leaving a data imprint for someone else to make use of. Whether we write an email, a Facebook message, store content on a Google drive, or type out a text, all of what we write is sucked into a semantic web.”
But a photo lives and dies from the second it’s taken. It’s born with a frozen setting, a time and a place. Our eyes taste pictures with the past, even before we gaze to analyze them.
“But you can push away from the photo of yourself: it was a younger you, you look different now. Words are different. They feel ever-present, always as if you’ve just said them. It’s harder to disentangle yourself. ‘You will pay for those words’ goes the banal phrase – no one ever says ‘you will pay for that photo’.”
If we are accountable for what we say, why write anything at all if it comes back to bite you? The durability of the written words appears to be riskier than ever.