It’s hard to remember my life without thinking, in turn, of the internet. The internet became big just at the right time for me, I’d had years of roaming and playing outside as a child and now I was 13 with dial-up. The internet was the home of the Hamster Dance, Dancing Baby, and Weebl’s Stuff. Until well after University, I spent the majority of my time online. I had (many) a blog before they were the norm, I learned how to code, I found wonderful online friends, and I visited A LOT of Stargate SG-1 fan sites (I wrote them all down in a notepad that I wish I still owned).
The internet at 13, 16, hell even 25 isn’t the internet today, and part of me does freak out at the thought of there being a generation that doesn’t know what it means to be internet free. So reading Emma’s book Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online, really resonated with me.
“Emma Gannon was born in 1989, the year the World Wide Web was conceived, so she’s literally grown up alongside the Internet. There’ve been late night chat room experiments, sexting from a Nokia and dubious webcam exchanges. And let’s not forget catfishing, MSN, digital friendships and #feminism. She was basically social networking way before it was a thing – and she’s even made a successful career from it. Ctrl Alt Delete is Emma’s painfully funny and timely memoir, in which she aims to bring a little hope to anybody who has played out a significant part of their life online. Her confessions, revelations and honesty may even make you log off social media (at least for an hour).” GoodReads.
I don’t know much about millennial bloggers, mainly because I’ve not put in the time to find out, but I do follow Emma’s blog, Girl Lost in the City. How I found Emma’s blog, I’ve no idea. It was probably one of those days where I went inception style through bloggers ‘favourite’ links until I came upon hers. Confession time: I actually won something on her blog and then bugged for her it for ages as the company was very difficult about it. She must have found me terribly irritating, and I feel rather embarrassed-guilty about it, so sorry about that Emma! This is the downside of instant internet life and ‘brand’, customers feel so entitled.
As she is only three years younger than me, a lot of her younger internet experiences were a lot like mine. I sat and chatted to strangers (who could have been grooming me) in chat rooms and over MSN. I pretended to be older and changed my name so guys would want to talk to me. 30-year-old Alice finds 13-year-old Alice frightening. What was I thinking? The internet wasn’t safe then, which is a weird thing to say now.
I suppose now (on a simplistic level) the internet isn’t safe now because you can find so much information about someone, then it wasn’t safe then because you didn’t know to stop yourself from spilling that information. Emma talks about how she learnt to be more guarded with what she put out there, and so did I.
Ctrl, Alt; Delete isn’t just a story about the things Emma did on the early days of the net, it’s about how this set her up to be the awesome person she is today. What I most admire about her is that she really knows her stuff, and she’s worked damn hard to get where she is today. She has this epic risk taking ability and seems very self-aware (knowing when to leap and when to step back).
It’s also a book that talks about how the internet can be a power for good and for change when we let it. It doesn’t have to be a platform for narcissism. Take Feminism, I can categorically say I would not be a feminist without the help of the internet. It’s given me access to a wealth of information and people that have developed the way I think now.
Ctrl, Alt; Delete is a fantastic book, and I recommend you read it. There is also a podcast accompaniment to the book, in which Emma interviews awesome humans (Dawn O’Porter, Zoey Suggs, and Laurie Penny to name but a few) which is just as inspiring.
What has the internet given you?