Five years ago, when I first introduced myself with If the Internet did not exist, I would not exist, I felt everyone give me a strange stare. I was immediately embarrassed, but glad that I had said it. How could I escape who I was? Might as well tell everyone that I was going to spend a whole crazy year in graduate school with!
And so it seems that this decade is ending. The teens are approaching. I graduated from high school in 2000. Having spent the previous 18 years as an outcast—feeling unliked by most people, having very few friends, having been very sheltered and…incredibly socially anxious. I decided that I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I didn’t know how much the Internet would shape me—even if this sounds like a melodramatic statement. In the late 90s, I experimented with making my own website on geocities and dabbling with an alter ego in chat rooms. But who knew that in the 2000s that it would be something entirely else.
What was my mission. My overall mission? I think it was always…Can you hear me? I want you to hear me.
I really don’t remember the first time I used craigslist. I do remember in the second year at Berkeley that I had to subscribe to a special list in order to find all the available rentals. It was annoying. Sure, it was sent via email, but it was…difficult to figure out if I was being ripped off…or just that I didn’t know any better. I remember during my senior year at Cal when I was studying location-based applications that my advisor showed me “lost and found” on craigslist. I was incredulous—who posted there? Years later, I discovered it seemed like a venting place much like the much-loved missed encounters. Can you hear me?
Why relevant? Because via craigslist, I have been able to rid more than 5 persons’ worth of crap from my house in Pittsburgh (just scream FREE and they will come), recruit users for studies even sketchy ones and find the roommate that I have lived with for more than 3+ years.
Sure, I had an aol email account. Then a uclink.berkeley.edu account. Then cmu. Then all the email addresses at the various companies that I had worked at. Then all these various ones at hotmail, yahoo…and then gmail.
But what was so important to me then…it was this easy way to contact someone. In my social anxiety, writing an email was an easy way to reach someone. Hello, are you there? It was easier than a phone call and a visit. Sure, email to me has whittled down to emails of less than 5 words (usually occurring when I am pressed for time OR when I am pissed at someone for not reading my previous email RTFM I SAY RTFM) and my incessant attempts for more information, but it has helped me communicate in ways that I couldn’t before.
One of those boys that I met in the late 90s…we continued email conversations through 2000 almost like pen pals. If email wasn’t around then I would have never met him. And if email wasn’t around, he wouldn’t be able to dump me just like several words on a post-it.
I realize that I sometimes reflect this I am smarter than thou attitude, but this comes from an urge to be like a guy. Namely, deals. I am not sure how I discovered this in my early college years, but I started scouring the Internet on fatwallet and goapex. It was what all the cool kids did. In the nineties, Black Friday meant really cool toys from Target or Kmart. But deals in the past decade meant the websites. It meant electronics. It meant the best gadgets. It meant undercutting the store for something written in tiny print.
The only reason I ever had a credit card in college was because of a deal. I am not sure why I did it. But I had read how I could make tons of money by getting the american express blue card and doing a price match guarantee. I bought a Playstation 2 at some electronic store. Got some money back by saying something to customer service. Got a friend to ebay for me, earning me a huge profit. I never used that card again, it disappearing in the drawers of my parents’ house. I love AMEX.
But in that education, I learned never to pay full price for ANYTHING. I guarantee that I can find you the best price for something. Except concert tickets, because ticketmaster is sux0rs.
7. Photo SHARING
I am a photo whore. Well at least I used to be. Before the digital camera, I used a film camera regularly…and even sent the film to snapfish. I shared those photos. The moment I got a digital camera—a Canon Powershot S30 in approximately 2002—I took thousands of pictures. (And yes, I got a really good deal.) My photo whoreness increased…to quadruple size. I regularly updated an album (eventually disk space was an issue) and made many photologs. It wasn’t enough though.
Photos proved a way for me to share moments with others—wirelessly. Perhaps inherently, I instinctively detected that it was a way for me to connect with others. When I finished my first year of graduate school, I made “yearbooks” for everyone compiling pictures over the year. I had used my digital camera as a way to interact with others. To communicate without actually communicating. To this day, I burn with desire to take pictures when I want to tell the world about something great that I witnessed—whether it’s me or some dude making a fool of himself.
6. Information at my fingertips
I proclaim myself proudly as a stalker. Even way back in 2002. Hey that’s my 14th entry in this blog! Nowadays, it irks me when there is a question unanswered when such answers can be found easily through the iNTERNWEB. Sure, at work, they call me Google and they tease me about wanting to be connected. It is ironic that I am old-fashioned and refuse to get a smart phone (see my frugality).
I realize that I have become somewhat of a know-it-all and I am trying not to be one. But how can I help it when someone asks a question like—who was that guy in that movie with the red-winged bird or how do you get a vietnam visa on arrival? Well, sir (or madam) you have asked the right person.
Not exactly an Internet thing. But I didn’t have a defined music taste until I discovered napster and its cousins in college. In high school, I listened to a kid’s station. I think it was ahead of its time, because you could call in…and hear yourself on the radio. You could vote by calling in…touchtone all the way. It was so great. It was so interactive. But they only played pop music like Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. Thank god that I never got that absorbed into that genre (except that moment where I listened to “I want it that way” at least 20 times when I was lamented over some boy).
Like photos, music allowed me to connect with others. Before iTunes, I was a devotee of winamp. I would post my playlist online and manually catalog the music. Oh yes, I had only 200 songs then! And Blink-182 was the first artist that I downloaded (*cough* pirated). But back then, I shared the mp3s with people.
There was a boy in 2002 that dragged me into obsession. It made me love Jimmy Eat World longer than I should have. But he was the one who introduced me to indie music. It was a way to be different. By using music. By appearing elite. I don’t think I actually enjoyed the music, but I got it into my head that music defined someone. And so I used it. Fortunately by 2006, I finally found a genre of music that I truly, internally, so personally enjoyed. And I found someone who enjoyed it too. Although it seems I think I lean toward twee-pop.
4. Posting status (twitter/facebook)
This is, of course, latter to 2000s. I embraced MySpace and Friendster when they first came upon the scene. I was obsessed with how everyone was interconnected, particularly on Friendster. Privacy? Didn’t occur to me. Actually it still doesn’t to me now. I don’t care what people see about me, because who I am…is who I am. How can I be anyone else? At least I don’t do anything stupid. I hope.
But posting status…particularly on twitter allowed me to connect with people in the ways my photos and music couldn’t. Yes, it was micro-blogging but now I had the attention of so many people. And vice versa. Even people who were obviously not bloggers in any sense…I could connect with them. One of my awesome-est friends…is because of twitter. I wonder how it will change in the next decade.
3. Meeting random people on the Internet
I used to keep a count of people that I met online. One friend (that I met on person) yelled at me as I so unabashedly bragged of my latest meet in 2002, “How could you meet people you don’t even know?!”
Maybe I was way ahead of my time, but I liked all the connections I made online. In 2001, I joined the-protagonist forums after seeing a friend had joined. She actually decreased her activity over time but I became an active participant. There I made lifelong friends. Hi LELE! And as a result had many experiences that I could not have had. A few weeks ago my coworker asked me if I had any “turning points” in my life—points that would have changed my life if I had not done something. This is vague, but it was joining that community that I met so many great people, experienced great drama…loss, gain. Well there it is.
And most importantly, through the Internet, I met the boys that shaped my life. At least the former part of the 2000s. To this day, I don’t know why parents never stopped me. But I told them the truth of why I was driving all the way to San Jose…why I was traveling to LA…why I was traveling to Minnesota. Granted, I older than 18 and they must have determined that I was old enough to make life-costly decisions. Meeting people online gave me a chance to meet people that I would have never met normally in the people I normally surrounded myself with. It broke down all my prejudices and my misconceptions of worldly ideas. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Sure, it might be a means to an end. Especially for 3. But for both people that I never met and people I met in person…it was my preferred way of communication.
Why AIM? It is the means, but there is gchat, the chat rooms, ICQ, yahoo messenger, etc. But AIM was the core…and still is the core of many of my conversations. This is how the boy in #9 communicated with me…and how he said that he needed a break. This is how I had communicated with all boys to date.
When I first went to college—the first time that I lived apart from my sister…we had decided that talking on AIM was so weird. Especially when we talked in person so much more. We agreed at first not to talk on aim. Maybe just on the phone. But we got used to it, especially when she went to UCSD for college. It was just easier.
Unfortunately nowadays, my friends don’t use AIM preferring…well more quiet time. But this 10 year habit almost has me on aim at least once a day.
Strangely enough, I used to find it offensive when someone would chat without saying “hello”, but all my conversations nowadays begin with a word and an exclamation mark. For example, YOU!
Like the other numbers above, AIM has offered me a way to communicate. It was where my supervisor in college and I had a talk that almost made me quit the job. It was where long discussions about nothing happen. It was where I developed my alter ego.
Someone used to call my words lyrical. At the time, it was a compliment. After all, at the time I was 15 and he was double my age at 30. The words flowed out and I rarely even proofed them.
But my journal…or eventually became my blog…was my haven. I used to advertise it everywhere in my aim profile, sending the link directly to people. It was the thing to do. And it was a place that I became brutally honest. It was a place where roommate even friends would go to figure out what was going on in my mind.
B2…or WordPress as it is known today was the reason that I started a blog. First at orbiting.chargedparticle then here to this subdomain where it is resting today. B2 was a blogging script created by a friend at the-protagonist. Almost all the members there used it. I used it…having bought into the culture that creating a website from scratch was better than using a template.
I wrote. I had journals at livejournal and various places. But this one blog survived all the drama. It morphed from random thoughts to internet memes to curated content (what it is today!). It allowed me to connect with people. But most importantly, most…of EVERYTHING, it allowed me to catalog my life. In hopes that I would learn from it and hopefully share that with the future me.