Let’s go back… waaaay back… back before Facebook, before Myspace; hell, even before blogs. Before most people knew what a dang email address was.
The year was 1995; I remember it well.
Slick Willy was in the White House, but Monica hadn’t gone public yet. I was being dragged kicking and screaming into puberty. And that Christmas my father was feeling benevolent (I believe he was running a fever) and bought us our first home PC: a Packard Bell, sumthin’-or-other, Piece of Shit.
There were few, if any, things this computer could do well. It would commit suicide if someone breathed too hard while it was booting up. When it did cooperate, I only used it to doodle in Microsoft Paint or play solitaire. But after I entered 9th grade, I started hearing some schoolyard talk about this magical place called “the world wide web.”
After much cajoling on my part, dad signed us up for dial-up internet service. I lived in the country; big providers didn’t offer us any local access numbers, so we used a [now defunct] service called Surfsouth. Yeah, buddy. If you were on Surfsouth, you were the shit.
Like most parents at the dawn of our new digital age, mom and dad began by telling me “only 30 minutes a day.” I used my time in the most productive ways possible: trolling newsgroups and participating in geeky role-playing games on mIRC. I even got me a dang ol’ ICQ number. (Eight digits! That’s OG, son.)
I rode the bus to school every day. Now that I was in high school, the last stop on our route, that meant I was on the bus for almost an hour. I usually sat in the “way way back” so nobody would sit next to me and bother me with small talk while I was trying to read my Star Wars expanded universe novels (The Courtship of Princess Leia STILL needs to be a movie, goddammit). One fateful morning, one of the neighborhood kids got on the bus and the only available seat happened to be the one on which I was occupying half. In a fortunate turn of events, he was a big nerd too, so we began discussing our adventures on the internet. He mentioned that he was making a website on a service called Geocities.
Well, I got home that afternoon and the first thing I did was sign up for a Geocities account. A whopping 2mb of space, and it was mine, all mine! I went to create my first website and was perplexed by the seemingly indecipherable lines of HTML. But I was determined, in the way only a fifteen-year-old knows how to be. Most teenagers desperately want trendy clothes or a new car; I desperately wanted a website. I lived in a town of 10,000 people — how else was I going to meet other people who shared my (what I thought was obscure) loves of 1980’s gothic fashion, fantasy-based role playing games, and violent Japanese comic books? I set to work, and after acquiring a pirated copy of Paint Shop Pro, began teaching myself how to write code and create graphics.
Suffice to say, the “30 minutes a day” rule quickly got tossed out. My parents never complained, though — I think they were happy I was spending my weekends at home on the internet instead of out getting pregnant in the Kmart parking lot, or doing meth in a peanut field somewhere.
As I neared my 16th birthday, I was running out of space on Geocities. I knew it was time to upgrade and pay for my own hosting. I ask you, what red-blooded American teenager doesn’t dream of saving their allowance money to buy a domain name? In the last 20-something years, I’ve had too many computers, a couple of domains, countless online journals, and for a while I even ran a fairly active discussion forum (back when BBS was the place to hang; long before “social media” was a thing). The summer I turned 18, I was selected as one of the winners in a Blogger.com contest; I got a t-shirt and everything.
I almost majored in computer science when I was in college, but chose fine arts instead, as I was afraid that making websites wouldn’t be a stable career. Haaaaaa… Hindsight, my friends. It’s a terrible thing. NO RAGRETZ
So really, the internet basically shaped my adolescent years. I met my first boyfriend on the internet. I discovered several of my current hobbies and interests through friends — many of whom I met via the internet. Some of my basic life philosophies have been shaped by materials I’ve read and discussions I’ve had on the internet. When you don’t want to dress or look like everyone else, the internet beats any shopping mall. I’m actually not sure where I’d be right now, had I not gotten online and discovered that a world does exist outside of southwest Georgia.
And it’s funny just how far I have strayed from my small-town upbringing. One might assume that given my penchant for liberal politics, being an atheist, frequently traveling to places that require a passport, and having a great love for foods I can’t pronounce — I might be better off somewhere like Portland or New York. Some of my friends wonder why I stay in the South. Well, not least of all, because the South needs people with all kinds of backgrounds, opinions and viewpoints… homogeneity is fuckin’ boring. But also because the South is my home, my one true love.
I also wanted to get back to the original reason so many of us in “generation Y” had web pages as teenagers: to facilitate sharing the things we love with like-minded people, and to keep a record of memorable events in our lives. I live in the South, and I love the South.
That’s why I’m returning to my roots and dedicating my blog to chronicling my life below the Mason-Dixon. So, if you’ve managed to get this far, stay tuned; hopefully it’ll just get better.
Y’all come back now!