Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Life, Bookmarked

Since starting college, my life on the internet has changed significantly. In elementary school, middle school, in high school, I would spend hours every day on the internet. Before YouTube, before Facebook, even before LiveJournal I would sit at the desk in front of "my" computer at my mom's office and visit chat rooms. I would make up a new personality for myself. Online I was the person I thought myself to be on the inside. I was more grown-up, less insecure, and I was fun. I didn't think how potentially dangerous it was to be a mature 11-year-old on the internet. I probably should never have went into a chat room at all, but through them the internet became my escape from an elementary world of playground teasing and trying desperately to pretend I wasn't smart. My bookmarks from back then consisted of game websites (not Warcraft, Word Warp) and a ridiculous amount of Buffy websites. There wasn't a news site to be found, I was 11, then 12, then 14--I didn't care about any of that and besides, my mom watched it all on TV every night anyway.

Online journaling was, and is, I guess, a way for me to validate myself. It's faster than writing out by hand, and there's less pressure to make it sound good. If I put my feelings down and then threw them into the world, in some way that was semi-permanent (until I, or the server, deleted it), they would mean something. I always open myself up too much, but spilling secrets on the internet was safer, anonymous. Early on in high school, I spent loads of time on LiveJournal, finding my friends, and the popular girls at school and then reading back through all of their entries. I would grab up scraps of information like they were lifelines. It didn't matter that I didn't really know these people, or even if I did, I had read their stories. It gave me some kind of edge and made me feel like I was close to them too, I would become popular, I would know them in this intimate, voyeuristic way. I was creepy. 

Around junior year, I used MySpace and LiveJournal to write intense love letters, and to receive them. The entries came much less regularly, I had a "real life." I didn't feel the need to put down every event in my life for some stranger to read. I finally had friends, a relationship, and the entries became ways to mark significant events. The internet was an external hard drive for my memories. After the relationship fell apart, I deleted all the important entries. I wish I hadn't. Facebook came into my life around the time my mom got sick. I could focus on finding friends, I could communicate with everyone, even though I was hardly ever around. I went online even less, spending more and more of my time in hospitals, theatres and in my car. 

This is turning into a very different post than I originally intended. I was going to talk about how my bookmarks have changed, and what that says about me and my personal evolution. I got a little sidetracked by my internet usage patterns through the years. Anyhow, now I spend about 3 hours, if that, on the internet. I get on to check Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and my email, then I go do real life things. My bookmarks now primarily consist of websites I've found helpful for research (for school!), Virginia Woolf things, YouTube exercise videos, literary sites and vegan recipes. This would suggest that I'm growing up. But maybe if I still had a Yahoo account, or an AOL account, I might still be up into the wee hours in some chat room, trying to hide behind my better self and reach out to strangers.

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