Happy New Year: A proposed end to 'trolling' and your life digitally archived

Vinny Guadagnino and Carson Daly attend the New Year's Eve 2013 with Carson Daly in Times Square on December 31, 2012 in New York City.

Instead of a  new digital trend for this New Year, how about getting rid of an old one before it hurts more people? There's an argument that the era of anonymously creeping around the internet being a jerk without consequence is coming to an end. Lance Ulanoff, editor in chief of the website Mashable, declares that trolling is out.

"When the Internet first started," he says, "everybody had handles, everybody had avatars, no one used their real name. Over time I really think this whole idea of being someone else and doing whatever they want because no one knows their name, is falling out of favor. It's simply not going to work for the long term."

Why not? Ulanoff points to high-profile exposures of people like the self-described troll with the moniker ViolentAcrez, who helped propagate creepy but legal pictures of unsuspecting women.

"People are not going to stand for it anymore," he says. "What we're going to have in 2013 and beyond is the idea of people truly owning their personas online. 

Still, others argue that pseudonyms are important to give people the freedom to speak out and debate crucial issues online, even if fake names are te cloaks under which trolls hide.


As we take stock of our lives to start a new year, here's an unsettling question. What if all that's left of us when we're gone is what we did online? Our images used to linger as old photographs in shoe boxes in the attic but now what? In San Francisco, the Internet Archive has been saving snapshots of the world wide web every two months since 1996.

"We see it as a kind of a Library of Alexandria version two," says Digital Librarian Brewster Kahle, the archive's founder. "It's evolved. It's not just published work, it's everything. It's people's blogs, it's their homepages, it's all sorts of things. So it's becoming much more personal."

So much of our lives is played out online now, on social media and elsewhere. Recently Twitter said it will allow users to see all the tweets they've ever sent in case you are looking for a dose of near-term nostalgia.

So will all that's left of us when we've gone be these digital traces? 

"Our lives are becoming more and more digital," says Kahle, "and if we don't have institutions that try and preserve this material, we might have a real digital dark age." 

Don't worry; if you think some things you've done online are best not left for posterity... you can ask the archive to take them down.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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