I’ve always been a nerd. A geek. A dork. A goober. PROUDLY SO. MY FATHER, A GOOBER BEFORE ME. My earliest computer was a Commodore 64. At the tender age of four, I had video games… but not like the other kids. We typed command lines in before we could play Fisher Price: School Bus Driver. AND WE LIKED IT.
When in the mid-90s AOL started connecting us and the world was logging on, I was right there to watch it happen. (On a newer computer than the C64, of course.) I knew the internet was something different and new. Important. A few years later, I had my own full blown website where I just plucked away at HTML, wrote serial stories with monthly updates (that some of the kids in school found and read along with), and talked about things I liked (things I am embarrassed to list here, but I had a MIDI of the Titanic theme at one point). Blogging 1.0? Eh, maybe. It was a welcome and empowering distraction and I worked on it for years. My friends liked it, strangers found it. I was answering emails from people who thought I was funny and amusing – and they lived in far off places. The internet was magic.
My dad recently mailed up some paperwork from when I was in high school. There it was, a biography written by me: “Lauren’s future plans are studying or working on the internet.” Oh yeah. I was hooked.
After I moved away from my childhood home, I got my first job at a doughnut shop in Houston. I had wandered in, distraught after a day of fruitless job searching, finding solace in a ring of fried dough. My friend suggested maybe I could work there. My eyes widened. I LOVED doughnuts and it never really occurred to me I could WORK there. A short conversation with the manager later and I was hired on the spot. The shop soon turned out to be a sugar fueled circus, but I hung on.
One night, we were getting ready to close up shop and a woman and her young daughter walked in. My eyes immediately locked in on her shirt. It was a character from the popular (at the time) webcomic, Megatokyo. As I rung them up I was brave enough to chirp, “I like your shirt. Megatokyo is really cool.”
“OH!” the mother explained, “You know what this is? She just asked me to buy it.” The daughter sort of shrunk away a bit, too shy to make eye contact with me. I nodded and explained I read the comic, had for years.
“So you’re from the Internet, then, too?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m from the Internet.”
BEST. DAY. EVER. I rushed home and had t-shirts made for myself and all my friends. I’m not kidding. I just wore one to an IT networking event last night. (I still have plenty if anyone wants one! Only $10!)
I felt like the phrase totally encapsulated my identity. I WAS from the Internet. A majority of my friends were, too. My boyfriend (now husband) and I had met online. Everything I cared about was online. It was my hometown. It had shaped me more than anything else. I could learn online using podcasts published by colleges I could never dream of affording. I could be entertained online, reading comics and watching videos for free. I found my friends there, people whom I share my specific interests (not the Titanic midi) with. I found a family there… There was a group of us who came to know and care very deeply about each other, talking daily, sharing little pieces of our lives.
I’m sure many of you did this in person. I did it online, in chat rooms and message boards.
I’m still fascinated by the Internet. I have next to me a bookcase that is chock full of information about the origins of the web, how businesses were born and died, and how the web has influenced so many facets of how we communicate. The Internet is an amazing tool and – for better or worse – has shaped me as a person.
So yes. I say it loud, I say it proud.
I’m from the Internet.