To me, an Archive stores things that have been created or received in the past, that are no longer necessary to keep close at hand. Items in an archive don’t need to be referenced quickly, but have value enough that they might be useful again in the future.

I’ve noticed Frank Chimero having a few thoughts about all this content we’re constantly churning out, creating, documenting and sharing online. Particularly, the way our archives gather dust – there are minimal mechanisms available to resurface hidden archival gems1.

Tonight, I’ve taken a tour through the archives of my Tumblr blog. And I’ve learned a few things in that little journey.

In just shy of three years, my posts have gone through “phases”. Periods of many frenzied posts, quiet periods, image-heavy periods, music leaden months.

Early content contained such strange contributions as my favorite lipgloss and what Lily Allen had been wearing. Posts at that time reflect what I had been reading – screeds of posts from Refinery29.

As more people started to follow and interact with my blog, the content started to change. I became more aware of who was watching, and of how my posts created a picture of me as a person. The lipgloss and handbag posts dribbled to a stop.

Genuinely, posts have always been for me first, but I can’t help but consider who might see them and how they might be perceived.

On Tumblr, it’s perplexing to watch users scramble for “blue candies” – those little nuggets of validation when someone likes or reblogs your post. Those things can be addictive, and give an inflated sense of influence or self worth, it’s like the other kids in the playground laughing at your joke. Perplexing, because I hate it – the empowering of others to influence your behaviour, but also because I’m guilty of enjoying the attention too.

I know I’m not alone – the term “blue candies” isn’t my own, and came from a fellow tumblr-using friend of mine. My eyebrow was firmly raised when another friend described “Buchanan Bait” (!) – content posted specifically with a particular user’s tastes in mind (Hi Matt!), in the hopes that they might reblog it and share your post with their larger following.

Such a playground.

My blog archive shows that there came a time, within the last year, where reposting or reblogging content became far less attractive. There has been more value to me in capturing things I have been personally creating or appreciating, rather than regurgitating the sentiments of someone else.

Also, I think that within a community as fast moving as this one, I’m not the first to see anything I haven’t created myself. There are others sitting with their mouths open constantly waiting for the next spoonful of content, just to be the first to swallow it into their blog and be the “winner”. And so rather than reblog to show my appreciation, I dish out likes.

The browsing of my blog archive was less soul crushing than I expected. In my experience leafing through old diaries and reading letters from years past usually makes my toes curl in embarrassment at my younger self, but with my blog I was pleasantly surprised.

Some diamonds re-emerged, like the post about “How to be Alone”, and the crowd-favorite water pistol fight video, Hecq Vs Exillion – Spheres Of Fury. But overall, scrolling through what’s come before I’m surprisingly proud of what’s here – it’s the kind of content I want to read, that makes me happy and inspired and curious and passionate and comfortable.

If only we were to take the time a little more often to look back at what’s been done rather than what is next to come.

There is actually a wonderful Photojojo service called Timecapsule which emails you once a month, photos from your Flickr account from that month one year ago. It’s surprising and delightful and I would love to have something like that for my blog.