Two days ago, I deleted facebook.
I started my account at the very end of year ten, around about this time three years ago, so I was kind of a late joiner.
It was the first time I had been on a social networking site that connected me to people I knew in real life. Up until that point, the internet had been my way of avoiding the people I knew in real life. It had been about making up a character and living as them online, and meeting other people who may or may not have been who they said they were.
I had always kept the internet and my real life business very separate from each other.
Looking back, I was a very obtuse teenager. Things would happen and I would, for whatever reason, entirely miss it. In high school I mean. When I was at school, it was to study and to see my friends. All the dramas that may or may not have happened were fragments told to me by my friends, and friends of friends. It was something I kept away from, by sheer luck for being one of the ones way too caught up in their own little world to even notice. You can call that a bad thing if you like, the fact that my narcissism overruled involvement with my peers during high school, but it worked for me.
Going home from school, my brother used to go on instant messenger, or bebo, or even myspace, and pick up conversations where they had left off at school. It was through my brother that I even knew these websites existed.
As for me, I avoided all that completely, and swung off in a different direction.
I didn’t care about instant messaging my friends, I cared about comics and inventing characters online. So, I joined a website that I think still exists, called Gaia online. It was geek factor on steroids. You invented a little avatar and lived this two dimensional life, full of fantastical stories and manga and countless colourful strangers to chat with. You could join little clubs and I remember fan girling over certain bands and TV shows i loved, as well as a forum I joined while I was questioning my sexuality.
Another good one was livevideo, which is now shut down after it received a little too much porn content. But for a good couple of years, this was the place I met lots of my online friends. None of my school mates even knew it existed. Here I was free to watch endless anime episodes and have endless conversations with girls and guys exactly like me.
After two good years of this, I moved on from my obsession with animation and left the website, and soon after it was shut down.
After these two, I ran various blogs on various websites, and spent a lot of time on youtube, until eventually I gave in and signed up to facebook.
Deleting my account two days ago got me thinking about my online history. It’s kind of funny how once upon a time, the golden rule was to never reveal your identity on the internet. Not your full name, not your school, what cafes you went to or what you looked like. Pictures were strictly forbidden. We were told and school and at home by our parents, never ever reveal who you are, or bad things will happen.
Isn’t it funny now, to think about that and how much the internet has changed. Not it’s not only common but encouraged and so easy to upload your photos, your videos, to talk about yourself and reveal intimate details of your life. For me growing up the internet was not to be tangled with real life. No one could be trusted, not even yourself. So you pretended, and assumed everyone else was pretending too. Everything was fine so long as nothing was real, and as soon as any element of real life was involved, abort the situation immediately. It freaked me out when my friend Lacey started meeting people she had met online in real life, some fragment of that old paranoia refusing to let go. It honestly still concerns me how much people give of themselves online. It’s strange how people on the internet seem harmless, and yet people in real life are so much more frightening. That guy down the road that gives you the creeps could so easily be the same guy looking at your holiday pictures online, chatting to you via omegle or liking your youtube video.
I’m not talking about stalkers or malicious intentions. What I mean is that the internet is kind of like this thick layer of plastic that sits between us and other people. So long as it’s there, we can see whatever we want and everything is fine. But as soon as it’s removed, shit gets real.
In other words, I don’t like the idea of tangling up my real life with the internet too much. And so, I deleted facebook.