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.