social networks have I known …

If you’re tech news-obsessed like yours truly, you’ve probably heard about Friendster deleting all of its users’ info at the end of this month. If we’re being honest/unfriendly, reading about Friendster’s demise in 2011 is kind of like finding a really old, mildewy pair of jeans in the back of your closet. Er, perhaps alongside that collection of white belts and “artfully” distressed thrift store shirts (and to further the metaphor of a 2002 ‘scene kid,’ let’s imagine them as skinny jeans, rolled up a single time). Not like I had any of those; ahem.

So, anyway, I logged into my long-untouched Friendster account and experienced a little secondhand embarrassment. For myself. I created my Friendster account in ’03, after some prodding by a friend (full disclosure: he wanted a “testimonial” from a female so he would look interesting and desirable to all the cool hipster ladies of the Internet; do with that what you will); looking at my Friendster info now, I have to say that I may have been a lot cooler at 14 than I am at 23. This is a startling revelation.

Rule No. 1 for a Teenage Internet Hipster: Take Yourself As Seriously As Possible.

In all honesty, I’m not too concerned about Friendster deleting my data. I don’t have anything spicy or too embarrassing up there (ha-ha, I saved the good stuff for my LiveJournal), just a fairly accurate display of pseudo-intellectualism. Friendster engagement does reflect the first real major step in social networking as we now know it. I’m going to try not to make too many more sweeping generalizations about Generation Y/Millenial/Me/Narcissistic and the digital world and blah blah blah, but it is true that I’ve grown up “with” the Internet. I’ve had an online identity, to one degree or another, since I was about 12, using AOL and posting diligently to music message boards.

My friends and I were really into Geocities and Angelfire and all sorts of site-building hosts that, in retrospect, were really rudimentary and full of glittery cat GIFs. But it’s the experience that counts, right? I also remember learning super-basic design skills on Expage. I probably created around 10 different Expage sites, and was practically religious about writing the HTML code by hand so I’d remember it for later. Even though by current standards, my parents really should have been on their A game for parental controls (after all, there are few things more dangerous than an insatiably curious, precocious tween with Internet access); if they’d been more diligent, I probably wouldn’t be confidently cresting the social media wave like I am now. Pats on the back all around!

I certainly didn’t think about it this way at the time, but it’s kind of interesting to think of being a pre-teen and being so involved in digital community-building. I actually made some really good friends over the Internet; which, naturally, has become a less weird thing over time. Some of whom, in the manner of Kevin Bacon, I shared very few degrees of separation. (e.g., Dani: a girl from Omaha I talked about music with over AIM/the aforementioned AOL message board; who auditioned at some of the same theatre conservatory schools as I did in the pre-college days; who ended up at University of Southern California and became a good acquaintance of one of my best friends from home, Andrew, who was incidentally an Acting major at USC; who startled me with a phone call during my first year of college to inform me that he had met Dani, My Internet Friend. Kevin Bacon has nothing on this.)

Tumblr has also been an excellent way of “meeting” folks, not to mention the people I’ve met at conferences thanks to Twitter. The progression of more complex, community-based platforms has been nothing but intuitive for me, even if my digital footprint makes me roll my eyes at times. Speaking of Tumblr, I came across this timeline on my feed the other day, which speaks to a lot of the stuff I just talked about (the image links to source):

So I’m not going to parade around with how Internet-active I am or have been, but I do think it’s interesting (and a little weird?) to have engaged with nearly every “Important Internetty” platform listed in the timeline. To be fair, my older sister was the one of us to discover Napster, so she wins the Cool Internet Point for this round — although I can say with some pride that my first Napster’d song was The Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon” in the summer of 1999. Hair flip!

I’ve been batting around the idea of having some friends write guest posts on my Fellowship blog about their experiences “growing up” with online communication, but I suppose it will all depend on who’s willing and able. The topic of digital communities is endlessly fascinating to me! I like thinking about Twitter as an exercise in linguistics and brevity (the latter clearly being something I struggle with); Tumblr as a means of cycling information in a dynamic, quantifiable way; Svpply/Pinterest (et al) as a potentially SUPER effective model for online consumerism.

The next post will probably see me returning to my 14-year old self, if only because I am currently in the throes of an existential crisis and feel the urge to revisit the days before student loans and being a grown-up. Deal with it.

(is it just me, or is there something vaguely terrifying about this video?)

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