Warning: Nostalgia ahead. Let’s all get teary-eyed for the Internet we used to know.
I have been using the internet for a long time. We’ve called it the Internet, the Web, the Information Superhighway, teh interwebz, Hoochie Coochie Girl Charo, CyberSpace and the ‘Net. When the Sandra Bullock film came out, it was amazing that one could order a pizza through the computer. The future was close! And yet so far as we waited an infinity of minutes for our 24 baud modems to noisily connect to AOL.
For all of the awful things about AOL (and there are so many), it’s never quite been matched in community and information. I joined the Amazing Instant Novelist community (AOL keyword: novel … remember keywords? Good times.) and wasted countless hours on the writing message boards. I cyber-met lots of nice people and read a mixed bag of poetry and short stories. It was hard to connect with real people because we all hid behind our avatars and screen names. Tracking down high school friends proved difficult because we were going through our young adult exploration, trying on new personalities and new interests.
Eventually I moved onto a new dial-up service and branched out to the Rest of the Internet (anything that wasn’t accessible by a keyword). New screen names, new avatars. Start a Blogger weblog? Okay. Join some Yahoo groups? Yes. Buy a bunch of crap off eBay? Yes, please. And some newer stuff from Amazon? And how!
For a while I operated under the Blissfully Bitter identity. The site I cobbled together with remedial HTML served as my online store for crafts and WHiRR art, my online portfolio, and my rant repository. I went through the blog cycle of 1) Get really excited about writing up some opinions and observations, 2) Check stats obsessively to find nobody magically found my website through random keywords (wait…this isn’t AOL), 3) Post obligatory pouty “I’m tired of blogging and I’m giving up” entry, 4) Post completely random entry 20 minutes later. Rinse, repeat, actually give up blog and move to LiveJournal.
I gave up Blissfully Bitter a few years ago because it just didn’t fit anymore. Growing up on the Internet is tough, you guys! Choosing screennames/handles is tough when you’ve got a common name. If your name doppelganger reaches a service before you and you try to use your real name, some generator tacks on some random numbers. I gave up on so many services in early days because I couldn’t come up with a handle I could live with. It’s an ongoing battle between being clever, being cutesy and being boring. Prospective employers probably think less of me when my query letters come from katharsisjones but I’d rather not be katharinemiller875z29.
In recent years, I’ve gotten swept up in joining the social networking ranks. At one point I was on LiveJournal, MySpace, Flickr, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Friendster, and probably a few others that faded in the shadow of Facebook. I wasn’t going to join Facebook because it felt like it was for young people. And then it was a way to stay connected with friends I’d lose touch with otherwise. Then it became a way to see what became of grade school bullies and ex-boyfriends (Classmates being unreliable and ridiculously expensive for what it is.). I use it for whining and self-promotion to hand-picked “friends” who can choose to de-friend me at whim.
Some days I feel too old for the Internet. I can’t keep up with the popular viral videos. I don’t care about 99.7% of memes. I’m tired of social media and buzzwords and SEO and cutesy portmanteaus and the continued bastardization of the English language because people can’t be bothered to use spell check or read over their hot-headed response to some troll’s hot-headed comment about some lady celebrity who decided to wear a baggy shirt one day (because ladies need to wear baggy shirts sometimes, people.). I’m tired of rushing over to sign up for the next big web trend so that I can get my name before someone else does. As the kids say: I can’t even.
On the other hand, the Internet is full of kitty cats. I do love me some kitty cats.