I've recently been involved in an internet discussion in which things turned ugly. One person was being called out for their misbehavior, and the majority of the participants "piled on", adding their anger and indignation to an already raging fire. After it became clear that things were getting out of hand, one guy (I'll call him Mr. X) suddenly felt ashamed of his actions and retroactively edited every single one of his posts, deleting what he had written. He then became an advocate of closing and deleting the thread altogether, posting a couple of times that it was "time for the thread to go away".
Modern technology allows us the ability to modify or even erase history, but I'm not sure we should. I had some measure of respect for Mr. X prior to this; I disagreed with him most of the time, but he seemed like a decent enough guy. Now, I'm not so sure.
It seems to me that posting something and then deleting it later is a form of dishonesty. It may be that there are things we wish we'd never said, or we wish we'd never done, but the fact remains that we said or did them. I came up with a personal policy a long time ago, that I would never go back and delete (or edit for the purpose of changing meaning) any of my posts on a public forum. If it comes to pass that I regret what I've said, I'll apologize for it, but I'll let the original post stand as a reminder -- to myself, mostly -- that I can be hot-headed and impetuous and don't always think things through.
It's the same on this blog. I've posted some things that are downright embarrassing. I've been stupid, paranoid, crass, vicious, and not always the good person I'd like to be. I've severely upset various friends at various times, occasionally needing to apologize, publicly or privately, for what I've said. But it would be wrong to go back and delete those posts. They are part of who I am. They represent a particular time and place and emotion. The fix for things I regret is not to attempt to convince the world that they never happened, but to show the world that I'm growing past them.
I've found that as a result of this policy, over time I've become more careful about what I post. I tend to think longer about the impact I might have, on those in the conversation and those just passing by.
One of the central tenets of the Christian faith is that Jesus sees all of our faults and loves us anyway. It's my desire to have my relationships with others based on the same kind of love. I don't want to be constantly trying to hide who I am or what I've done just so people will like me. That's probably the main reason I'll never make it in politics. Obviously there is a place for discretion, but in the end I think there needs to be people in our lives who know what kind of person we've been and what kind of things we've done and said, and love us anyway. And I think it all starts with refusing to get into this game of hiding what we regret, either by superficially deleting internet posts that embarrass us, or by attempting to do the same in the real world.
I'm not a good person because there's nothing in my 39 years to say that I'm bad. I'll be a better person tomorrow than I was yesterday because yesterday provides the context for my improvement today. If I erase yesterday, I have no need to improve because I have no starting point to work with, so it's better to leave yesterday where it is and admit that that is where I was. And I honestly think that people who can't grasp that probably aren't worth my time.