I remember defacing a computer we had when I was really young, most likely in the late 1990s, a huge cubed desktop computer that I stuck a seahorse window decoration on. I wasn’t the one using the computer at the time—my dad was using it to type up his doctoral research and needless to say he wasn’t that amused.
The first instances that I can remember using a computer at home are when typing things I wrote like stories and adding them to dozens of floppy discs (I’m very curious to see what’s on the discs. I have them saved up in the basement but seeing that Apple Macbook Airs don’t even have a CD hole anymore, it’s very rare for computers today don’t really have a floppy disk hole). At school, from first grade to fifth grade, I was in a typing class where we would have to use the same program every single year (I would quickly beat the 26 levels of the program, Type to Learn 3, in later years seeing that I would remember everything from the last year). As a result, I grew to type very quickly and am known among my friends as the go-to person for lecture notes because I have an uncanny ability to type every word the professor says without breaking a sweat.
A walkthrough of the startup screen of Type to Learn 3, a game I was forced to play every year of elementary school. I have so many bad memories having to re-sign up every year and realize that I would have to start the program over.
I think that I began really using the computer to utilize the internet around third or fourth grade, mainly to play Neopets, which I guess was not only a game but a sort of kids’ social media-style site; I say this because not only did I enjoy playing games and racking up the virtual currency (neopoints) but I spent a lot of time networking with people on chatrooms (neoboards) and learning how to html code a crude version of a website. This first foray into html coding was integral for my later blogging and Internet use as I learned the basics (how to create paragraphs, margins, change the font or text color, create centered text, etc.) at this time. I think it’s quite funny when I look back on it that I spent so much time on this site because to go on the Internet we were still using Netzero’s dial-up service so my mom would get annoyed if she was waiting for a call. I also have a lot of nostalgia about learning about the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on Google because I would type neopets.com into the Google search box and click the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button instead of typing it directly into my browser.
It took a lot of time and brainpower, but I finally remembered the name of my Neopet. Here’s her pitiful profile. She seems very undernourished as I haven’t played in a good eight years.
However, my first “real” social networking account was on Facebook in fifth grade. Since I was moving to a different state, a lot of my family friends wanted to keep in touch and felt that Facebook, which had begun to move into the mainstream at the time (2007), was the easiest way to do it. Not many other fifth graders had Facebooks so to keep up with my younger friends I created a Myspace account, and to this day I feel that Myspace was a bit sketchy. Since I was scared for my life about stalkers (which schools drilled into our heads were everywhere online), I began spelling my first name differently, and this stuck for the rest of high school and college (even my teachers spell it incorrectly).
My paranoia about getting found by some stalker probably began far before the incessant assemblies at my middle school about social media use because in fourth grade, I had been signing up for a new Neopets account and was asked for my zip code; I freaked out for a good month after that at night that someone was going to find me because of my zip code and email address (my mom found it hilarious when she found me one night crying about it). I’ve definitely had to publish more and more information about myself as time has gone on online because of the advent of online shopping. It does kind of scare me that Amazon has three of my debit/credit card numbers stored as well as my billing and shipping addresses, and that I am so willing to give Mint.com my credit/debit card information in exchange for a nicely sorted personalized budget and spending infographic each week. In addition, my bank probably has my social security number stored on some online database, which worries me to an extent as well. I’m not so scared about the government or future employers finding my posts but that someone will steal my identity or my money. There are multiple scam websites out there, especially in the clothes industry with Chinese sellers selling replicas of designer garments, that I have to be very careful about what I buy and pass off deals that seem too good to be true (because they probably are).
I think that the single thing that I am most wary about when it comes to publishing my information or my writing pieces online is the fact that the social media site that I publish it on, be it Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger, or Facebook (all of which I use regularly), actually owns my pictures/text/cookies/browsing data. It honestly is a bit unsettling when I’ve been on Asos or Modcloth looking at dresses one day and the next day I see an ad for the same dress pop up on the sidebar of my Facebook timeline. However, I don’t think that me looking at dresses is incriminating information and am pretty fine with the fact that Facebook can sell my browsing activity to others; it’s just the fact that if I ever decide to publish say a poem I wrote and put on Tumblr, I could get into a legal entanglement.
It’s scary but at the same time a fact of life that my face and my thoughts are now online. I can’t hide from the Internet and I don’t see why I should! I’ve embraced sharing, even oversharing, online as a millennial. How else would I be able to share pictures of my Starbucks cups with my name spelled slightly wrong?
Allerson (Allison) and Kharen (Karen) were so revolted that they felt the need to submit their pictures to starbucksspelling.tumblr.com
“Allison.” Starbucks Spelling. Tumblr, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2014. .
“Karen.” Starbucks Spelling. Tumblr, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2014. .
Hartman, Josh. How to Play Type to Learn 3. Youtube. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2014. .
“HoneySweetPixie the Yellow Kacheek.” Neopets, 2014. Author’s screenshot.