Imagine you’re about to post an amazing picture on Instagram. Maybe it’s a selfie where you look great, a beautiful landscape or a picture of your dog. Unfortunately, when you click “post,” you realize something is wrong. Perhaps you accidentally wrote a caption riddled with typos or autocorrected offensive words, tagged the wrong person or worst of all posted a private picture that wasn’t meant to be shared. Still, no harm done, right? Just delete your post.
Except… it’s never going to be deleted. Within the less than 5 seconds your post was live, archivist bots have likely saved your post. According to VPN Overview, “Instagram is watching you” by collecting data on everything you do on (and potentially off) the platform, including what you post, in order to cultivate a profile on your likes and dislikes for better marketing. Sadly, your accidental post is here to stay, stored in Instagram’s data servers forever.
If you’re comforted by the fact that supposedly only Instagram itself (and third parties) has access to your data and not the public, don’t be too sure. Archive.org’s Wayback Machine, available to use for free, stores more than 634 billion web pages.
Ever wanted to see what Heritage’s portal looked like in 2002? Now you can here. In the grand scheme of the internet, ahschool.com is arguably not very important, yet it was still archived over 100 times. This shows that nothing—no matter what it is—is too small to archive. Bots (or human volunteers) randomly archive thousands of pages every single day onto this website, and your mistake could very well be one of them.
Ever since childhood we’ve been told that “nothing on the Internet ever goes away.” While some of us may have dismissed it as a silly statement from overly cautious parents, it’s 100% true, because as soon as you click that post button, ownership of your content essentially disappears. Anyone can see it, and you’ll never be able to track where it might go. A few years down the line, it can even come back to haunt you.
84% of organizations use some form of social media to recruit employees, meaning your entire digital life will be on display. Banks who could grant you a loan, colleges looking to find students or even future partners wanting to know what their potential match is like all are within their rights to conduct background checks, and you definitely don’t want something horrible to come up, no matter how long ago you posted it.
This is not to discourage you from using social media. It’s simply important to be careful what you post, and never publicly reveal something without taking a moment to think about it first.