squared online

I was 11 years old when I first received what the internet was. I’d been shown previously how to turn on a modem and then use a computer to play computer games, and at some point I joined Neopets because that’s what everyone in Year 7 did, but one lunchtime, I remember putting “Friends” into Ask Jeeves (intending the TV show), and being truly shocked at the mass of information that came back.

There were dictionaries, message boards, fansites of the TV show, informational websites on friendship, quotes pages, images – all the messy results you got back in 2001 before Wikipedia or systemic SEO were a thing.

The results were a mess, but I was left with the understanding that I could read about, talk to and hear from virtually anything and anyone, anywhere.

This was a serious lightbulb moment for an eleven year old, and I have a clear memory of heading to Maths and just sitting there, wordless and in a daze, pondering the enormity of what I’d just discovered.

That sense of wonder of the power of the internet to broadcast information and connect up people to talk about it has never left me. I think its a miracle. But lately, I’ve been meeting more and more people who seem to regard their online lives as somehow being a bad thing. I’ve been meeting people who dismiss social networking as inauthentic, or view having an online life as “no substitute” for having a “real” one. This is nonsense. When you tap something into your computer and hit send, your words are read by a flesh and blood person at the other end, who has an emotional reaction to it as valid as if you’d said it to their face. Maybe it’s subtly different but it’s there. It’s real. [click to continue…]

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