The Vanishing Web
A friend of mine died a few years ago. She was diagnosed with cancer right after I moved to London. So I didn’t see her nearly as much as I should have. Instead, we tried to stay in touch online, but back then remote work and chat apps weren’t very good. She had an Android, I had an iPhone. And I was constantly changing phone numbers and SIM cards because I was traveling internationally a lot for work at the time. It was a mess, so we just settled on using Facebook Messenger to keep in touch.
We spent about a year talking and video calling on Messenger. And after she died I expected those messages to stay there. And then I logged in one day and they were all gone. Her family couldn’t have known this — I certainly didn’t — but when you convert a Facebook profile to a Memorial page, it erases that user’s chat history. I have screenshots of a few bits of what would end up being our last conversation, but that’s it. The rest is gone.
Luckily, this friend of mine was what we would now call a prolific shitposter. She live-tweeted her way through chemo. Most of her posts were about eating weed cake, how hot she thought Drake was, and continuous rolling updates about what she was watching on TV, which was mostly Dr. Phil. She also had a Tumblr where she’d share fantastic selfies of her new wigs. And while I haven’t been regularly going to those pages, I always felt secure that she was still there. Her posts are a couple clicks away and I can go look at them whenever I want.
On May 8th, Elon Musk announced Twitter would be “purging accounts that have had no activity at all for several years.” And so I’ve been going back to her account a lot lately. Obviously, Musk is a compulsive liar and nothing he says ever happens the way he says it will, so there’s a possibility her account stays up, but the threat was enough to have led me to start researching ways to archive it. But there really aren’t any good ones. There are ways to archive an account’s most recent 3,000 tweets, but she posted A LOT. So I’ve resigned myself to the idea that one day I will search her username on Twitter and it just won’t be there anymore.
But it’s not just Twitter that’s updating their policies. Image-sharing site Imgur announced that they’re “removing old, unused, and inactive content that is not tied to an account” and, just this week, Google announced a similar plan to remove Google accounts after two years of inactivity.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old aphorism that everyone dies twice. Now, it seems, we die three times. First, when you stop breathing, second, when a corporation deletes your account, and, third, when someone says your name for the last time.
I’ll be realistic here. I don’t think we should expect every company to keep our content forever, but I also don’t think they should get to unilaterally shrink the internet because they’re tired of being responsible for its upkeep. The internet shouldn’t be a handful of company towns that can pull up their stakes and leave when the data mine is tapped.
Erasing old content is, also, a fundamental betrayal of what the internet was created for. It was meant to be an infinitely expanding space of unlimited discovery. One that exists beyond what was possible in the physical world. You could be whoever you want, talk to whoever you want, and interact non-linearly across time and space. And a lot of companies got very rich by offering us the opposite: walled gardens and passive algorithmic recommendations jammed into linear feeds, which they marketed as more secure, more convenient, and more entertaining.
But there also really isn’t “inactive” content. Not really. It’s just dormant. As long as it’s online, it’s still just as alive as it was when it was first posted. For instance, my friend was once posthumously “canceled” by far-right influencers. She tweeted a lot with people who would eventually work in media and her extremely wild tweets got swept up in some culture war bull shit that no one cares about anymore. The morning it all started kicking off, I opened Twitter and there she was again on my feed. No one seemed to have noticed she had been dead for years. I know she would have gotten a big kick out of it.
And, yeah, the whole thing was definitely surreal, but it was also sort nice. Because on the internet, you can, in some sense, live forever. The signals we broadcast out into the void don’t have to fade away if we don’t want them to.
Think About Subscribing To Garbage Day!
It’s $5 a month or $45 a year and it goes to a good cause — the continued existence of this newsletter lol. You get the Garbage Weekend edition and also Discord access. Not a bad deal for less than the price of two Dunkin Donuts iced cofees a month. Hit the green button to find out more.
Apple’s Big Metaverse Play Is Coming
I’ve been really curious about what Apple has planned for their first push into the “metaverse” because I think it will finally be the make-or-break moment for the entire idea. Though, I should clarify that basically every generation has their big VR push and every time we get a little closer, but, so far, they have all ultimately failed to cross over into the mainstream. So if Apple’s upcoming headset doesn’t hit, it likely just means we wait 15 years and try it all over again.
Bloomberg has a huge piece out this week about the Apple headset with a lot of new details. It’s going to be called Reality, it’s not VR, but XR, or, mixed reality, it’s running on a new OS called xrOS, and, most importantly, it’s going to cost $3,000.
Also, unlike Meta’s XR headset, the Quest Pro, which I actually spent weeks trying to use while traveling and can confirm is almost impossible to use outside of your home, Apple thinks people “will eventually wear the device continuously all day,” according to Bloomberg, and that it actually could replace some iPhone functionality.
Which makes me think its success is going to come down to comfort — most headsets are horrible to wear for long hours — and the price, which to me, is just simply too much.
Though, who knows, maybe the Apple effect will work here again. A cool, expensive thing that not everyone can afford will reorient the industry and suddenly a bunch of cheaper alternatives will appear downstream. Guess we’ll find out at WWDC next month.
TikTok Users Are Challenging The Montana TikTok Ban In Court
Montana moved forward with their TikTok ban and was pretty much immediately sued by a handful of TikTok users. There’s honestly no point trying to talk sense into politicians like Montana Governor Greg Gianforte who tweeted on Wednesday that the ban was protecting Montanans from Chinese communists. The idea has taken root in the country’s psyche and now we all have to wade through the ensuing moral panic.
But if you’re looking for a good take on exactly how wrong Americans have it, you should check out this new piece in The Atlantic written by Tim Hwang and Tianyu Fang.
“It was in fact the whole-hearted adoption of American ideas about innovation and the internet that gave rise to TikTok,” they write. “ByteDance, the platform’s parent company, is a mirror of American technology rather than its antithesis.”
Which, I think, is the real story here. American politicians are recoiling in horror at our own values being deployed against us by a country that isn’t us.
Deleted Tweets Are Reappearing
Tech analyst Dick Morrell wrote on Mastodon that he recently discovered that Twitter had restored 34,000 previously-deleted tweets of his. I remember years ago that when you went to 4chan it was just easier and safer to assume that everything was fake and a scam. 4chan Gold being one of the best examples. I recently realized I’m now treating Twitter the same way. Apologies to anyone who’s tried to DM me since January! At this point, anything that can go wrong or be exploited on Twitter probably will.
Speaking of which, after Twitter announced that Twitter Blue users could upload two-hour videos, a user uploaded the entirety of Shrek The Third and tweeted it at Musk. I, for one, am shocked that someone would pay $8 to go online and do crimes.
Happy Birthday, Dennys Grand Slam
Wow, time flies, man. This week marks 10 years since hardcore band Live Without played at a Denny’s in Houston, Texas. If you’ve never seen this, please, do yourself a favor, and hit play. If you’re looking for the best part, it’s around 1:45 when Live Without frontman, mid breakdown, utters the immortal, “WHAT THE FUCK IS UP DENNY’S?!” Here’s a good history of how this concert happened.
Andrew Tate’s Losing It
I tried to identify what the anime girl is from, but I haven’t had any success. If you know where Tate got this waifu edit — I am assuming he didn’t make it himself — let me know!
People Keep Crucifying Koroks In Tears Of The Kingdom
Sorry gang, you have to click here to watch this. I covered this a few issues ago, but, basically, there are little guys called Koroks in the new Zelda game. They appear all over the map and you have to help them find their friends. If you do, they give you a little seed that you can exchange for a bigger in-game inventory. Players have decided, however, to build elaborate ways to kill them.
I’m playing the game right now (it’s the best game I’ve ever played, etc.) and I’ve helped a few Koroks, but they’re also deeply annoying to move around. I had to help a Korok cross a river the other day, so I fused him to a boat, but he was too heavy and sank the boat and then the wreckage floated down the river. I eventually went back to save him, but I definitely considered leaving that little freak to die.
Some Good Yorkshire Content
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Shout out to the BBC’s Jasmine Andersson for tweeting about what is now my new favorite TikTok account, which is just about cool stuff in Yorkshire, England.
Some Stray Links
“The Midwest’s ‘Minnesota Sushi’ Is Having a Pop Culture Moment”
P.S. here’s a good TikTok duet (Tumblr mirror).
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
that tiktok duel goes much harder then it has any right to be
I don't exaggerate when I say that the Denny's Grand Slam is probably my favorite video on the internet.