Joe Gallagher linked me to this piece on Thought Catalog, which inspired me to write this list.
My first memory of a computer is probably from when I was around six years old. A black start-up screen, something named “dos,” calling my Uncle Ted if anything froze (which it always did), and sitting on my dad’s lap playing a game called “Duke Nukem,” the one and only video game that I have ever beat or even wanted to play. Later, in elementary school, we had CAT (cannot remember what the letters stood for) and Applied Tech, which sounds completely outrageous to me now. Aren’t kids just born with computer skills these days?
In third grade we got America Online, which was very exciting and very confusing- as bewildering as a fax machine. The cool girls in Mrs. Vogel’s third grade class all had AOL. Kristin Toler, Jen McDonell, Emily Farina and I all exchanged “screennames” (Mine was AABFMSP, a mix of my initials and my beloved American Girl dolls’, of course) and would send each other forwarded chain letters and stuff. AOL didn’t differ too much over the years. I remember constantly getting CD-ROMS in the mail for free hours of AOL. It seems so strange that we used to pay for that by the minute, doesn’t it? No matter what version it was, chat rooms seemed pretty much the same no matter what. In fifth grade Susan Newman and I used to go into chat rooms and pretend to be different people of all ages. Sometimes I would get scared or nervous that something bad would happen to us- and this was long before “To Catch a Predator.”
My parents got rid of AOL in eighth grade and we used Comcast instead, because it was less expensive, or something. The concept of free-standing browsers made zero sense to me, and I was really bummed I had to get rid of my most favorite screen name ever (ye olde Sapphire9987) and make a new one for AIM, a separate instant messaging service that I thought looked cheap. A few years ago, AIM was most definitely a dying art, and now I am about 90% sure it is totally and completely dead and gone forever.
AIM definitely was a huge part of my adolescent life. It was a similar addiction to Facebook. Checking away messages and profile quotes back then is kind of like checking your mini-feed now, don’t you think? It’s something to do before bed so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything (does anyone else feel like that??). Friendships were ruined and built back together on AIM. Never could you say harsher words or have your thoughts more misconstrued than the times they spent in an AIM chat box. There were always those one or two kids who would send a message with “sup?” “nm u?” “nm” who annoyed everyone. I wasn’t really big on talking to strangers on the internet during this time. I remember I met a kid at Rachel Zatuchni’s bat mitzvah who I talked to a lot, only I can’t remember his name, only his lime green-on-black Comic Sans font, which essentially defined his personality. Mine was Times New Roman, 10 pt, bolded, and magenta for most of my AIM life. AIM also introduced “the question game” to young teenage boys and girls- kind of like Truth or Dare without ever having to hear someone’s voice or even look at them. First it was questions like “would you ever kiss me?” which later grew into “how often do you masturbate?” The question game stopped after I got my first real boyfriend when I was 17. The new AIM prompt was “tell me a secret!” which was similar in practice and theory.
In eighth grade, blogging was the thing to do, except we didn’t call it that, we called it “updating DJ.” I don’t know why exactly, but somehow I ended up on Deadjournal with a whole slew of kids from VFMS. We used initials to talk about people we knew, complained about life as fourteen-year-olds, posted surveys and quizzes, left anonymous comments for people we didn’t like. I never deleted my account- everything I wrote in 2002 is still up there.H owever, nothing makes me cringe more about my adolescence than reading those entries. Rachel Goodman later inspired me to move to Livejournal, because it was more cheerful.
By far my dorkiest internet endeavor was my membership with the message boards at babynames.com. I’m actually dying a little inside as I write this. God, ninth grade was awkward. So basically? I have always really liked onomatology, where names came from, listing all my favorite names, the idea of babies, and things of that sort. This is when I used to use phrases like “avatars.” The message boards at BN weren’t just about naming children, though. A lot of the topics were just about normal stuff. Though there were definitely a ton of moms on the site, I made friends with the other teenage girls, and we would band together when moms would complain about girls clogging up the boards with threads about babynames when we weren’t even out of high school, let alone pregnant. We would exchange phone numbers and talk on AIM, Direct Connect and send pictures. Sometimes we would send each other shit in the mail. I thought it was totally badass and would whine to my parents if they didn’t want me giving out our phone number. “BUT LEAH IS A GIRL, MOM!” I would yell. “A REAL GIRL JUST LIKE ME WHO LIVES IN COCOA BEACH AND WHOSE FATHER IS FIGHTING FOR OUR COUNTRY IN KUWAIT.” Leah would talk my ear off. When the site began charging a yearly fee to post, I paid for two years, I think. This was hard to explain to my parents.
I stopped using BN as much and became completely enthralled and invested in a little old thing called Livejournal, which, when returning to it, will help me remember my older teenage years for the rest of my life- something that I am completely thankful for and definitely makes all that internet drama worth it. I was in the first hundreds of members of a celeb gossip community called OhNoTheyDidnt, a page that later got bought out by Buzzmedia and often gets cited by People Magazine, among others. I got a lot of shit and a lot of praise for my Livejournal, which covered everything from my first kiss to the loss of my virginity. My page was “friends-only,” which meant that only the 50 or so users I had listed were able to read it, and there were even “custom” friends groups, which could limit who read a particular entry if I deemed it too personal to share with everyone. I felt and still feel a weird bond to my Livejournal friends, most of whom I attended high school with and don’t really talk to anymore, because they know a lot of stuff about me that other people oddly don’t. Livejournal provided a kind of anticipation that differs from Facebook. You would go to bed after writing a particularly juicy or angsty entry, wondering how many comments you would have in your inbox in the morning. Feelings were often on the line. Literally.
Around the same time I joined Livejournal and became obsessed with LitMag at school, I “applied” for a spot at Pathetic.org, a site dedicated to people of all ages who wrote poetry. Each profile was that particular author’s “library” where they could shelve works of writing into folders and upload a sweet userpic. I remember one poem called “Making Daisy Chains” by a girl named Kristina Costa. I googled her and found out she was a student at Harvard. My inactivity caused me to lose my account and I lost that poem. I still can’t find it anywhere else. I used a pen name and won two teen poetry contests- $100 for “apple and oranges” back in the day. I was one of the younger posters on the site, and people often told me how great and talented I was for sixteen. My dad read my poems and when I found out I was mad and embarrassed. He just told me he was proud of me.
What a weird time. When I look at my page now, the numbers look so small and insignificant. 192 friends and 332 comments. I supposed I really only spent an active year or two on MySpace. My listed interests include “flashbulb memories, lucid dreams, windows down/music up, “Wayne is the city for those who want to fall in love in November”, rehashing last night’s events, Canadian music/television.” When I think of MySpace I think of Eric Sproat. All in all, I think MySpace is/was more narcissistic than Facebook is. MySpace isn’t really about sharing current events, videos or news in pop culture. MySpace is really about the image you project on the Internet- not that Facebook isn’t about that, but there are definitely other elements to the Book.
I always forgot to turn on the damn scrobbler.
One of the few things I don’t like about Facebook is that it plays an integral part in how Zack and I started dating, which is funny, I guess, because Zack never uses Facebook. I always hate that part of telling The Story. “We met at a party on Atherton and made smoldering eye contact and I went up to him on the porch and said ‘Hey I’m Allison, my friends and I are leaving, do you want to come with us?’ and he came, but then he started talking to Amber and so I left, now knowing that they already knew each other, and then four days later I got some message on Facebook from a guy named Zack Hartman and I was like, who the hell is this guy?”
Anyway, Facebook has completely revolutionized the way we share and gather personal and public information, keep relationships, and stalk your crushes. You know this, you have an account. You know this, people won’t shut up about it. You know this, people wrote a million books on it and there’s this little move called The Social Network that may or may not be up for several Oscars this year.
John Hendrickson, Rich Coleman and Mike Hromchak were my friends on Facebook before I ever spoke to them in real life.
I have an account, I just can’t commit. It feels zoo-y, claustrophobic. Like I can’t keep up.
The girls on my floor from my freshman dorm made an account we all used. There were a few videos posted of us goofing off, but I ended up making three or four video blogs towards the end of my Livejournal days. Two from my sophomore year of college, and another from when I studied abroad in Amsterdam. Vlogging is cool, if only to remember what you looked, sounded, and acted like during a certain point of time.
This is where I am today. Much more public, much less updated. A smooth, clean look without the stigma of an “online diary.” Though I don’t think of WordPress as a community as much as I did other websites, I don’t mind it.
This is my new jam. Writing about food and drink establishments validates me going out so much, I suppose. So far the best thing about Yelp was writing a poorly rated review for a bar in center city- and getting called in for a free round of drinks by the CEO of the place. I have high hopes for Yelp. You can read my reviews here: allisonb123.yelp.com
See you on the internet.