Digital Remains


Caroline Huber

1/27/20232 min read

Digital Remains

Everything is forever on the internet but

I cannot find that video of you

All that remains are

Broken links and a screenshot

Your pixeled likeness purged

With my concept of foreverness

I wish I could rewatch your melancholy

Digital Remains (extended.)

As a 2000’s baby, it’s been endlessly programed into me that what gets put online stays there. Forever. There’s no such thing as digital privacy, no electronic eraser, no way to take anything back. And to some extent this is true, between the Patriot Act and digital cookies, online activity is seemingly endlessly logged. And through constant reminders of this tracking, I, at some point, began to believe in a sort of state of constant access. Meaning that if a piece of media existed, it could be found, and consumed.

My childhood interaction with the online world was through firewalls and the endless but seemingly justified neuroticism of my mother. Online safety videos were played to me in school, reminding me just how dangerous the internet was, showing me how strangers could track me down, and how they’d find my address if I wasn’t careful. I read articles in the papers about how social media would affect me before I had the chance to experience it myself. Teachers told us stories about people getting fired because of pictures of them with solo cups on Instagram. The internet was this vast and terrifying thing, an archive of every single digital second.

By the time I, in my early teens, became entrenched in the online world, I understood that the internet meant some sense of foreverness. I watched videos and read blogs and assumed that that media would be there for me to come back to. But I was wrong.

Recently, I attempted to find some videos my younger self loved. They were the from the mid 2010’s. I was very fond of watching them in my first years on the internet, because they were so wholehearted, messy and joyful. By the time I was online, there was already an aggressive wave of monetization and sanitization sweeping over YouTube and other platforms—a polish that these videos lacked. They were often excellently edited, but they were broadly unmonetizable, either because of copyright or the premise. Some simply had limited audiences. But they were important to me.

When I looked, I found they were all gone.

One of my favorite creators was MeekaKitty. She made silly lip-syncing videos, filmed conversations with her friends and fellow creators, artfully edited fanvids for Harry Potter and vlogged friends at Target. Now, she goes by the name Tessa Violet, and has a career as an indie popstar. Her YouTube channel is host to music videos with millions of views, though much of her early music has been hidden. At some point within the last few years, many of the videos I loved so much became unlisted, and then completely inaccessible. Some have been reuploaded by other channels, often in odd chunks, but for the most part, the content is gone.

I understand why an artist would make that choice. There are many reasons why videos of yourself from over a decade ago, from your childhood or young adulthood, would not be something an artist, or anyone, wanted to keep online. But I am sad, nonetheless. Maybe this is because I feel like I can no longer see what I formerly enjoyed and am thus denied the nostalgia of knowing my former self in that way. Maybe it is because it demonstrates a firm change in broader internet culture. Either way, I have learned that the internet does forget, sometimes.