Every once in a while I dig back through the years and years of emails that I have stored up in my first webmail account (yes, I'm still using the same Hotmail address that I had before Microsoft bought them out so long ago), just to see what I and my friends were saying. There's the usual jokes, quips, and interesting links. There are old forum registrations, sales receipts for online stores that don't exist anymore, responses from writers and artists from back in the "Wild West" days of the internet when you could write to just about anyone that was online and get a response. I suppose that last part may have come full circle with Twitter, but I digress.
I look back, and I get a solid glimpse of who I was, who I spent time with, and more. I see what made us laugh and cry, each with the original words. Someone may look in my "Inbox" and see thousands and thousands of messages, most of them from machines rather than people. As you go back farther and farther, though, and look at what has been kept, and you get a picture of me and of the people in my life. There are bits of excitement and sadness, long letters and short missives, all weaving together into a picture mirroring and sharpening my memories.
Included in that mass is some of the best character writing I ever did, fleshing out superheroes for an online fighting league. I don't write that well now, so I sort of wonder how I managed it then. I must have been particularly engaged in those things. I'm reading letters from people that are no longer here, remembrances from people I haven't seen in a decade or more, and things more melancholy. A friend emailed me with the revelation that her stepchildren were sexually abusing her birth son. I don't have that letter, though I remember the desperation, self-recrimination, and begging for help. I do, for some reason, have the response I sent, reassuring her and making the case that the actions of two little sociopaths were theirs alone.
For me, I guess it's the same sort of thing as going through old boxes of letters and pictures. It's a digital memory book. It's just as permanent as any other, I guess. Such things are subject to the hazards of time, and this one has at least once been on a failed server that could only partially be restored, so I don't have everything. Somewhere along the way, things fade away. This is just another way of fighting back.