intro-net, glitter and all: redux

It was a Sunday morning when I first heard the high-pitched squeal of dial-up as it came through my computer. I was fifteen.

When the homescreen appeared, my first thought was this was some sort of fake test page. It sounds ridiculous now, but I remember that being my first reaction. Because it couldn’t be real. It couldn’t. The headline, which seemed huge across that 17” screen, said River Phoenix was dead.

It seemed impossible.

But so did the Internet.

Would the day I got my first email account and officially joined the Information Age have had such an impact if it hadn’t crossed paths with the death of that amazing boy? Probably not. But I still remember the goosebumps. The disbelief. Info still coming in about what happened. Details not entirely clear. But there it was. Data traveling at dial-up speed, faster than anything we’d ever known.

My first day online I looked forward to sending emails to friends, to joining them in chat rooms, to surfing the quaint and less complex web. I’d promised my parents I would watch the clock – every minute was money spent. (Technically, it still is, although who’s counting?) Instead, the day I got my own IP address was also my introduction to what has now become a huge facet of the online experience: collective grief.

Fast-forward eighteen years, and there is an entire generation that doesn’t know what dial-up was. Or River Phoenix.

I would think that this generation would approach the web with a bit more savvy then we did. We who happily paid per minute to surf and download and log on again and again each time the modem dropped out.

My friend Morgan once wrote a great tutorial explaining the Internet to users d’un certain age. For them, this is a brand new world. But how to explain why today’s fifteen-year-olds don’t understand the impact of half the things they do online? This worries me sometimes. There are repercussions and responsibilities that come with a Facebook page, a twitter handle, an email address of one’s own.

Once you’re online, well, it’s hard to go back. Life online is like glitter. As Demetri Martin said:

The thing about glitter is if you get it on you, be prepared to have it on you forever, because glitter doesn’t go away. Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies.

I’ll never forget that Sunday. I’ll never forget how powerful an introduction it was to this new world. How I called friends to tell them what I’d read. What I’d seen online. There was no Facebook on which to post, no twitter platform on which to tweet. We called, we cried.

My thoughts for those now fifteen-year-olds online? Respect yourself and your privacy. Think before you type. And be sure to have an offline life. The Internet is a wonderful thing. But much of it is a vicarious experience and you might be missing the chance to do some incredible things in real life. Read real books, watch movies in theaters, go to concerts, shop in stores. Connect with people, who will also connect you to more incredible things online. It’s a very cool cycle.

And google River Phoenix. Watch Stand By Me and Running on Empty and The Thing Called Love, amongst many more. He was incredible. He was talented. He didn’t have to die so young. Don’t do what he did. xo a.

In keeping with the spirit to OWN THE BRAG, I’m posting my favorite post as part of Alison and Ado’s 1st Blogoversary Bash.

As part of RemebeRED, I’ve revised an older post “to explore our earliest memories of being online.”



20 thoughts on “intro-net, glitter and all: redux

  1. B

    Wow – I love this! Very cool! I had a River Pheonix poster on my wall – oh my giddy aunt – he was GORGEOUS! I spoke to a friend today who mocked me for my Facebook use. I heard myself say, “I only update my status once a day!”. She never updates her status and says she is far too busy for Facebook. It was a reality check for me. I must live each moment and not live for the next natty and cool status update.

    Great post. I might just have a bit of a snoop around while I am here….

    Thanks for your comment on my post, by the way…

  2. Galit Breen

    I love how this ended- with love notes and reminders and sage words for those navigating the internet today. Heartfelt and transparent0 just the way I like it!

    I also love this- “Fast-forward eighteen years, and there is an entire generation that doesn’t know what dial-up was. Or River Phoenix.” That line right there is genius.

    Also? I so swooned for River. That is all. 🙂

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      I’m not going to say I think before I type all the time, but I definitely approach my online life from a different POV than teens I know. Adolescence is full of ups and downs. I’m kind of glad mine was free of FBook drama. 🙂

  3. kaleba

    I’m way older than you so got a late start to the internet. And it was just as baffling. I don’t precisely remember my first ever internet experience. My first online experience was a free email program that didn’t come with access to the World Wide Web. My how times have changed.

    Nice post on the prompt. Indeed, one must be careful in this day in age. I do wonder about kids that never lived without the internet. How different is their life from mine? Although, as much as it bugs me to hear the neighborhood kids outside screaming and playing and carrying on, it is at least good to know they’re not inside on games or the computer (unlike me).

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      Not having kids yet, I can’t imagine the balance you have to create between school, activities and online time. I know how sucked in I can get, which is why I am grateful social media didn’t truly take off until i was out of college.

  4. Wild Child Mama

    I loved that guy. His lips were just so captivating. Not to mention how talented of an actor he was. It’s amazing how quickly we found out about things then, and now? It’s lighting fast. And if we want, we can youtube River. We don’t even have to leave the house to see those awesome movies.

  5. Amanda

    First, I love the quote by Demetri Martin and repeat it often.

    Second, the advice for kids now on the internet is dead on. “Have an offline life.” When I discovered the internet, it seemingly took over my life and it still has to a certain extent, only now I’m more conscious of the role it plays in my life. If only I’d had that insight as a 15 year old haha

  6. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    I honestly am scared for all the ways kids have to be mean to each other – facebook, texting, etc. At least the bullying when I was a kid was kept face-to-face (which sounds ridiculous, I know) but now it’s so insidious and so public. I shudder in advance for my kids’ teen years.

    Also, love that glitter quote?

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      I am SO glad Facebook wasn’t around when I was in school. Remember hearing at school when your three friends had all gone to the mall without you? Imagine the fun of seeing it live, online, in real-time status updates and mobile uploads. Oh, the drama!

  7. Pingback: five great things someone else said, vol. 31 | alexandrawrote

  8. Ado

    Good Lord am I glad FB and the Internet were not around when I was 15 and totally naive and stupid. I just do not know what I would’ve done or how I would’ve behaved – well, yes I do and it gives me the chills.
    Thanks for linking up your post with us and helping us to celebrate our Blog Bash! – Ado

  9. Gina

    I wandered over via Blog Bash and really enjoyed this post. I struggle to imagine what kind of relationship my kids will have with the internet (they’re just 4 and 2 now). We offer little screen time right now. But I find I need the reminder too — set boundaries, unplug, think before I type.

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      I’m not sure I’m always successful, but I try to find a way to balance offline and on. Now I’m trying not to use any social media before noon. Only respond to emails I must. If I sit down at my desk by 9, it gives me a nice chunk of unplugged time. It works some days better than others.

  10. Alison@Mama Wants This

    Great post! And I totally remember the early days of the Internet. Of the excitement. And the trepidation. And as things progressed, the loss of privacy and security concerns.

    And the offline life?? Yes, that. So important.

    Thanks for sharing this post with us for Blog Bash!


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