“It’s a show about the internet.”

When I heard those words I was already hooked. I love learning about the internet. Not only did the internet change almost everything about our lives, there is just a wonderfully fascinating culture that has emerged from it. My status as a total nerd is pretty well established, but my love of all things internet just affirms this.

Reply All is a new podcast that I have been devouring. There are so many stories they cover… situations and tales that wouldn’t exists without the internet: An ex-girlfriend breaks up with her boyfriend, only to use an app later to hire a stranger to deliver a message to him in person: I fucking love you. A man invents the pop-up, much to the ire and upset of the rest of us. A man who has dedicated his Sunday nights to amending Wikipedia of one specific grammatical mistake. These are stories that I have loved hearing and learning about.

This is going to sound odd, but I love the ads too. Podcasts, for the uninitiated, are ad supported. Most shows just read off copy they’ve been handed, rattle off the website and coupon code, and back to the show. But these guys, PJ and Alex, are using their ads as an extension of the show’s concept in an entertaining way. They have a conversation about how they use the vendors they’re advertising for, which are all digital services that exist thanks to the internet. For Squarespace, where you can build your own webpage, Alex created a page dedicated to whether PJ has met his new baby. Well, HAS HE? You can check out that page here and find out: http://haspjmetalexssonyet.squarespace.com. They also talk about their MailChimp e-mail list, and how, whoops, they forgot one week to send the newsletter. “Obviously, what you’ve just recorded is our ad.” “MailChimp! Works great if you actually send your newsletter out!”

It’s also doing something I didn’t expect: it’s teaching me about the internet. Things I had no idea were happening. Not that I thought I was the end all be all of internet culture, but I thought I was pretty savvy. For example, there’s a thing called swatting where someone as a prank will phone in a threat at someone’s house who’s doing a livestream on the internet. The result is a SWAT team raiding them, live online. Just mentioning it makes me nervous.

This universe is wide and weird and wonderful and awful all at the same time. I suppose that’s part of the reason I’m so drawn to it. I think the other reason is because this culture is my culture. Its history is my history. Much of the family and friends I have are from the internet, as I’ve discussed in previous blog posts. I’ve always said that my dream job would be to become an internet anthropologist, but there’s not a real clear road map for how that would even be a thing, and at age 30 I think I’m a little late to figure it out.

I can’t wait to see what Reply All has up its sleeve. Do yourself a favor, head over to replyall.limo (yes, .limo, since the .com was taken, which is hilarious to me). Check them out. And keep up the good work, Reply All. I’ll see you on the internet.

I’m from the Internet.

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.

There are people whom with I share my name.

Estimate for a Deck

Estimate for a deck. Not mine.

I have what I would guess is a fairly common problem here in the modern age. I have the same name as other people who use the internet. And not only that, I have an email address of that name. Now, you’d think that people would know their own email address. You registered it and using it is much like giving out a phone number – you want people to contact you so you give them your email address. Well, people aren’t contacting YOU when you give out the wrong email – they’re contacting ME.

At first it was little things… like adding me to a mailing list or sending me photos of someone’s vacation or children. A quick, “Whoops! Not your Lauren!” email would set people straight. They’d apologize, and it would be fine. Those instances are the ones I understood. But sometimes they’d say that the offending Lauren had told them what to type. How weird. I’d ask them to remind her that it wasn’t her email and that would be that.

About a half dozen Laurens have made this mistake over the years. These are things that were clearly not intended for me:

  • An Australian Lauren has been asked to umpire softball tournaments via my email
  • I have also been invited to a Tupperware party in Australia
  • I have been signed up for not only a virtual pet service but a virtual magical horse breeding website
  • The estimate for the deck above is for some Lauren in Louisiana and it is LOVELY
  • Lauren in the UK has signed up for a money management service as well as a disposable cell phone
  • Someone named Adam who would accidentally send along emails like ‘my phone is dead call soon’ and fwd: lost high heeled shoes in rental car’ (I think they were dating.)

One is a Lauren in the South Carolina/Georgia area. I got a ticket she bought for a Halloween party. Lucky for her, the phone number was listed on the order. It was one of the more confusing phone calls I’ve made. “Hi, you don’t know me, but I am Lauren and I’ve been sent your ticket for the party you were planning on going to and I got your phone number off the email and I didn’t want you to miss the party. Hi.” She gave me her email address and I forwarded the ticket to her.

I always try to make an effort. Always. I figure if karma exists maybe some will come my way. Plus it makes for an interesting story.

This weekend, a new Lauren presented herself. I’d been signed up for real estate e-mails from Virginia for a couple years now and this weekend I get emails from U-haul and Comcast. I guess she found her new house. I had her address and phone number but I haven’t called her. It’s WEIRD AND UNCOMFORTABLE. Her orders have been placed so is the point moot? Do I call anyway and say, what, “Hey, you’ve been using my email address sooooo… stop?” I’m going to ponder the issue and see what I think I should do. I don’t want to wait too long, because then it’s out of the blue, and I don’t want to wig her out. But it should be addressed… right?

Maybe I’ll send her a housewarming card.