The Internet Ruined My Life

A series of anecdotes about my time online

I remember getting MSN when I was around nine years old, along with my first email address. My favourite thing about it was collecting all the different stickers and GIFs, and having to write a new shortcut for each to store them. I vividly remember having a lot of LOL stickers (lol, LOL, lOl, LoL etc) because in 2007 everything really was laugh-out-loud funny, not just ‘let out a little gasp of air’ funny.

Around this time I’d also started watching what I would refer to as the Golden Age of Disney Channel. You know the era: Suite Life, Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven, High School Musical. I had plenty of the knock-off merchandise, and would read the Wikipedia entries of the stars religiously. For example, Kyle Massey of Cory in the House fame has the same birthday as me.

One day while on MSN I got added by several new accounts, and I did several double takes. Vanessa Hudgens and Miley Cyrus wanting to talk to me? My pre-teen self was ‘shooketh’ to the highest degree, so I began speaking to them. I told them about how I loved their work and what my favourite songs were (“Nobody’s Perfect”, obvs). I only had one conversation with each of them but I was convinced I was going to be the next Disney Channel star in some sort of British exchange film.

My parents weren’t so sure, as they had read about the dangers of strangers in MSN chatrooms and so on. The family laptop was on a fold-up table in our living room so they watched my conversations behind me, and concluded it was not anything too sinister as Vanessa and Miley were writing as if they were ten years old. They told me they thought it was my new group of friends from school having a laugh with me.

I mean, that was hard to believe. I had just started middle school and made what I thought were a tight knight group of friends that I would treasure for life (spoiler: they bullied me and I haven’t spoken to them for almost 10 years).

***
Obviously, it’s not good to blame any personal faults on something as huge as social media, but I don’t think my confidence has been the same since I was rated consistent 4/10s on the Facebook ‘Like and I’ll Rate’ posts people used to do.

***
I remember being 16 years old and staying up until silly o’clock in the morning on my phone under the covers (I shared a room with my sister), texting a boy from across the country I had become friends with on a summer school. I don’t really know what we spoke about – literally anything and everything from performance poetry to our families – and I didn’t see him that often in real life. I think it was more what he represented, that there was someone outside of my small town that had a similar outlook to me and wanted to hear all about me that made it so exciting. I think at that age, being listened to is the most thrilling thing in the world.

***

Is it terrible that one of my thoughts while being in isolation has been ‘wow, my Instagram is gonna be so dead this year because all my plans have been cancelled’ ????

***

People talk about it a lot, but it is pretty shocking the things people will post online knowing they’re hidden behind an anonymous username and blank profile picture. When I was 19 I was on a daytime quiz show (for less than 5 minutes! So innocent!) and the amount of tweets I found of people being rude about me were unreal. I’m not that thin-skinned, I knew people would laugh at my performance (tbf, it was poor) but some of the comments were something else.

I thought it was really funny and made a stand-up routine about it at uni, and it did get quite a few laughs, but others were quite concerned and kept asking me if I was okay – that’s when I realised quite how nasty these comments were, and also what a dedicated fandom quiz shows have?

***
They really do mean it when they say block your ex or you’ll see something you might regret.

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I learnt about a lot of musical songs from Glee. I didn’t watch Glee. I used to find what songs they did on YouTube that week, then swiftly convert the audio file to MP3 and listen on my phone. I had zero context. I thought “Some People” was a male song for years. I did become obsessed with “Take Me or Leave Me”.

***
I wrote my dissertation about blogging and my dedication was to my mum and dad: “sorry for spending too much time online, but I wrote about everything I was looking at!”
Isn’t it weird that when we were younger we would have a set time we were allowed on the computer a day, and now most of our obs are entirely online? And our social life, shopping and TVs. It’s not a bad thing per se, just shows how far we’ve come.

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