One of the unfortunate results of having grown up in a world where MySpace existed while I was still underage* is that my previous internet selves occasionally rear their ugly heads and bite me. I had the revelation several years ago that I ought to delete my fifteen-year-old self’s livejournal but while looking for something else, I accidentally stumbled across my rockist seventeen-year-old avatar resolving that I had better stop watching The Hits all day or else I’d “accidentally” start liking McFly. Fortunately, I have no will power.

Nevertheless, by the time I hit the world of internet pervs and weird goth manga, I was of an age where I’d already sufficiently twisted my own brain by buying a Staind album that no further significant damage could occur. My mum can use email and has a Flickr for sharing photos on the SpringWatch feed but she’s never had a MySpace, so there’s no risk of me accidentally finding emo pictures of her on That I’m aware of, anyway.

This obviously won’t be the case with the Kids Of Today. If I have children, I’m going to have to spend …well, about nine months most likely, editing my internet presence back to the earliest days. ‘Yes but what if my eight-year-old innocently searches for my name as part of a school project and finds a Taio Cruz review I wrote that mentions standing in a sex shop? Or my McFly fanfic? Oh my god seriously what if they find my McFly fanfic? Where did I even LEAVE the McFly fanfic? I am going to be arrested by social services.’

The great thing is that there is no world in which my children would want to know the drunken things their mother got up to. The sheer unpleasantness of knowing the person who gave birth to you has also begotten badly-grammaticised hell, then abandoned it in the darker and seedier outposts of the fictional universe is just too awful. The problem is that they may have no choice:
‘Hey, Dave**, your mum was pretty fit at university’
‘Fuck off’
‘Yes she was, look, she’s dressed in a vinyl nurses’ uniform with wool on her head’
‘Oh my fucking god I am going to kill myself. On YouTube.’

Which is unfair. I mean, for all I know my seemingly pretty straitlaced parents may have dark pasts involving costume parties and an alter-ego known as Lambrini Girl but sweeping such matters under the rug was much easier when it would have been considered a gigantic faux pas for a friend to appear, years later, with an album of photos of you all falling over, armed with cans of Carling and wild-eyed stares and show everyone you know now, from your boss to your boyfriend to your mother or indeed, your children, whereas this is now considered a necessary part of modern life; I know you can de-tag but some things can’t be unseen. The sort of public exposure to old photos that was previously reserved for celebrities’ children is now thrust, unwillingly, upon those who can’t afford a lifetime of therapy. Christ, how could we be so stupid? Who thought MySpace was a good idea for eighteen-year-olds? Why didn’t anyone tell us this was a bad idea in some way that would have been meaningful at the time, like ‘your future children will sue the shit out of you for trauma if they ever see this unfortunately-angled shot of your cleavage?’

Obviously, with any luck, social media will have moved on by the time any child of mine works out how to use the iThink or whatever and so the idea of using Old Person’s FaceSpace to look at anything would be so unthinkably naff that they might as well just look through PRINT MEDIA, god MUM shut up about book shops, I’m trying to download some new hair. The idea that people could potentially be turning up at Antiques Roadshow saying ‘this is a collection of images taken with a webcam, probably in the early 2000s, although there’s no exact timestamp; we think this is probably my Great Aunt Hazel, although obviously the low resolution makes it difficult to tell,’ is simultaneously ‘waving arms around and laughing’ amazing and THE WORST THOUGHT I HAVE EVER HAD.

“Well, these are fascinating artefacts from the time; obviously this is before 3D and might even be before camera phones. The webcams of the time had no non-visual sensory output but there’s an immense sense of the personal about them, all the same, like looking at primitive cave paintings. Very brutalist: it’s a fascinating find but sadly I doubt it will be of great worth to a collector as if you look closely here, there’s been quite considerable compression-damage over the years.”

Still the weight of all that ancestry (even if somehow I managed to find some kind of magic tool that can delete things forever on a self-perpetuating media) is so in your face. I mean sure, I could read some things my parents wrote when they were nineteen but it wouldn’t be RIGHT THERE ON THE BBC. “Google your parents” sa the primary school teacher, thinking ‘dere god but I need a laff’ and then that’s it, they’ll never forgive me: ‘mum I can’t believe you used to fancy Kano! He’s OLD. Pay for my therapy!’

Web 2.0 (if that’s what we’re still on, even) will leave blazing trails of your parents’ involvement in fandom. That was always true of the internet, though and to be honest, once you’ve had a bloody good laugh about your dad writing about Warhammer then that’s very much the end of that particular avenue of trauma and also an excellent way to work out what the hell to get him for Christmas. The real horror is going to be teenagers loosed upon social media sites. You know your bad goth poetry? YOU PUT IT ON DEVIANTART. Can you delete it? Well, theoretically but can you remember your password? Do you still have your sixteen-year-old email address to retrieve it from? Have you FORGOTTEN IT EXISTED until the soon-to-be-immortal phrase “Mummy, what was it like living in the dark pit of darkness, can we visit it” pipes up?

The WayBack Machine never forgets, never forgives. Your foolish seventeen-year-old self now stands as a terrible warning far worse than merely informing your children that you’ve proved with science if you drink an entire bottle of Glen’s Vodka you WILL throw up for the next four days and so there’s no need for them to conduct any further research in this area. Future generations will laugh at the teenagers of the 00s in ways previously unimaginable: this isn’t just your teenage diary, this is stuff always intended to be public. My MySpace angles: let me show you them when you least expect it and what you thought was a sweetly nostalgic trip into an innocent past becomes a mawkish b-movie of sparkling .gifs of Robert Pattinson,*** ‘omg sooooooooo hungover what did I do last nite lol’ and the breasts that fed you.

Hypothetical children: we are all very sorry. Now how do I delete this before you find it?

*In, err, Madagascar or somewhere. But that’s the idea of the WORLD WIDE WEB. In fact, it’s probably still illegal for me to have sex SOMEWHERE. Those pop-up public loos, perhaps; no one’s old enough for that and in any case how can something that transient exist in any known state under any known legislation? This is a literal can of worms.
**I will not actually be calling any of my hypothetical children Dave; too many associations with Busted’s worst single.
***The only sparkling .gifs I have ever made were of Immanuel Kant. This can be but small comfort though: “Your interests include ‘pretending making playlists is constructive,’ Mum, you can’t make me do my homework.”