Wednesday, January 26, 2011


A brief history of my relationship with the internet, circa 1997-present

Angelfire. Tripod. Geocities. Livejournal. Deadjournal. AOL Instant Messenger. Making fun of MakeOutClub and never becoming a member. These are all reasons why I can’t take the internet seriously.

This is a fact of my life: I grew up on the internet. When I was an adolescent, I didn’t have a lot of friends, so I spent my time learning HTML, making “humour” websites about Current Issues in Pop Culture i.e. why I love/hate Aaron Carter, Britney Spears, and Hanson. I was writing on message boards, confusing people with my real age: 12. When my age was discovered, which I never concealed, fellow board members told me to go play with Barbie. What 12 year old plays with Barbie? I thought this is was the AGE OF THE INTERNET. I was Tavi before that motherfucker was born.

In grade 6, I was introduced to ICQ, but grades 7 and 8 were prime times to be on the internet where I could construct some form of “identity” at 2am on weekends and buy things from I started blogging before the term “blog” existed, using websites like Livejournal and Deadjournal to complain about being a teenager while noting what type of music I was listening to (Slipknot, then Modest Mouse). I made friends with strangers I (usually) never met, and added a couple of real-life friends to Livejournal along the way. There were some other online diary websites, too; I had accounts on all of them. Remember .nu websites? By ages 14-15, I had an online identity that was real, without trying to be anything else. This dissipated as I grew older; I had some real-ass friends and hobbies, I boycotted Myspace until I was 20 and needed it for research, and I went to university. Then Facebook came along, and well, that’s a whole other chapter.

It’s kind of fucked up that the internet constitutes a large part of my adolescence and teen years. I am normal, though. I go outside frequently, I have friends IRL, and I sometimes get sad and bored when I’m alone. I’m not obese and I have non-computerized hobbies. I download a lot of stuff, though – Napster would have been proud of my torrent skills. The days of AIM are over; once eclipsed by MSN and now overtaken by my bare Skype account.

As a result of this digitized tomfoolery, I can’t take the internet very seriously and I am certain it’s due to my past. Several articles and photos are published on the internet in large doses nowadays. People become “internet famous”. Once, we had physical, tangible “libraries” and “photo albums”. Those were the days when your Youtube video wasn’t featured as a newsworthy item. There is so much to read and see on the internet, such as this paragraph, and it’s an overwhelming amount of knowledge and information to handle. People find jobs, MA programs, long lost family members, and homes on the internet now. In short, a lot of serious things are happening on the internet.

The internet has always been a leisure activity for me. It was never supposed to be something serious, was it? Ignore early military-based developments and Al Gore’s “information highway” theory. Was it supposed to take over how I searched for jobs, shoes, apartments, dentists, and love (see: My Brief Experience with Friendster as a 16-Year-Old Virgin)? I never saw the internet as a tool for career-building; it was something you “surfed” in your spare time. Now, every office relies on it to build productive employees. The internet has wasted a lot of time, though, and it’s not always a beneficial tool.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen: victims of the internet

For instance, I don’t know how I made it through university without relying on ADHD medication. The research for my fabulous A-papers was basically conducted online alongside a world of distractions. I never had the concentration to read through a full PDF; I was too busy googling random stuff or checking my email/Facebook after finishing the paragraph on why the CRTC is undermining media democracy. I never, ever had the concentration to write and read online without interrupting myself. I even checked my email a few times when writing this. I’m sure you did, too (if you got this far).

I think because I cannot take the internet super-seriously, I am possibly failing in life. The internet is not a glorified tool for action, democracy, activism, motivation, or success. It’s not even real: it’s “cyberspace”. There is too much freedom on the internet – how can you be motivated when there is so much choice? If we all had the choice in the world, we would be prancing around, opting for the “NO WORK” button. In my experience, that is precisely what the internet is: one big giant playground. I am not taking advantage of the internet’s aforementioned wonderful “qualities” because I never knew how to. The only time I adapt to the Wonders of the Internet is during times of employment, interning or volunteering, where I am required to abuse it less.

People are not any more interconnected on the internet; instead, people have become lonelier. People have constructed false identities. People have exaggerated real identities. People are still unsuccessful, unemployed, passive-aggressive, confused, and having affairs/life crises every few months. Survival skills have been overtaken by how to conduct a proper google search. The internet is not a cure-all; it’s a complicate-all. And that’s why I can’t take it seriously. That’s why I can’t be productive online in my spare time. It’s a boredom-eliminating machine, and also a boredom-inducing machine. Everyone is on the interwebz.

“Back in my day, we didn’t have the internet,” your elders mumble. “This generation is so lucky. They have everything they want at their fingertips”.

Yeah, well, maybe that’s the problem.

You grow up on a playground. All your life, you’re playing in sand, swinging, sliding, and frolicking aimlessly. Then all of a sudden, out of the playground emerges an office building. Now you are expected to get a job at this office building and be a serious adult. How do you work there, knowing that the sandbox is on the same turf?


  1. Seriously, how do you get anything done? I have the same problem. I get online and I can't do anything,. I get to a computer to type and do word processing with no connection, then I wish I had a connection.

    Any methods or tricks you use that you can elaborate on?

  2. I had this exact same thing happen, I was on the internet back in 1997, I was 12 years old at the time and everybody had a Geocities page including myself. I miss the days of having open Usenet over an e-mail client, IRC and spending all my free time at MST3K Presents Caption This! over at the Sci-Fi Channel website. Caption This! consumed SO MUCH of my time.

  3. First off, I think we are actually the same person, because you just described my childhood to a T. The Slipknot and Modest Mouse references did me in. Too real.

    Number B: How did you finish college? I'm in my 4th year, but essentially failed the last two semesters. My school requires us to complete a thesis in order to graduate--which I've barely started writing. I have a ton of materials/research, but no fucking motivation; just a lot of depression, anxious fixations, and net savvy.

    Any tips would be greatly welcome.

  4. I don't know how I "survived" the internet during uni. I don't really have any tips. I am a hard worker. I don't mean to sound like I don't put effort into anything in my post. It comes down to time management. After 5 years of uni, you should know at a certain point how to write a paper. I received help from my Academic Centre for the first 2 years of university. My grades are flawless, except for Spanish. I do like school, but so often, mid-sentence, I always stopped writing and checked out something else. My mind was never steady, I could never concentrate, but that doesn't mean I didn't accomplish things. Somehow.

  5. Great post, thanks for referring me to it. I remember my days well. Many pairs of jeans purchased back in the day.

    Being 12 on the internet in the '90s was rad.

  6. Sweet post. I think I missed most of the 'golden age' of when the internet was just used occasionally for 'surfing' in your spare time (in 1997 I was 5), but I can just about recall dial up at the beginning of my relationship with the internet. I'm in my first year of uni and I wonder how the hell I'm going to get through this with such major distractions more and more every day.

  7. Laundromatic! Hahaha: I had forgotten all about that.