06 | Digital witness

"I care, but I don't care"

If you’ve read my various internet things for a while, you know that I’ve been writing and sharing things online for over half my life. I didn’t grow up on the internet, but I certainly came of age here. I spent the end of my teen years cobbling together websites using rudimentary HTML on Angelfire and Geocities, sharing snippets of my daily life.

At first it was all pretty quotidian, mostly about the various angsts of being a teenager. Then, over the years, I started sharing photos and more creative writing. The photos were terrible in quality of course (ILU, Casio QV-100), but they sparked a love of a certain style of photography that’s still with me to this day. The writing ranged from straightforward journal entries to more freeform things where I just had fun with the language. I also shared poetry, and because the only people reading my website were other teenagers, it was well-received.

All of these things encouraged me to keep at it, to keep developing and to embrace all creative impulses, whatever they were. At age 18 I decided to pursue writing seriously, as a career. If it wasn’t for the ‘90s internet, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to do that.

Here, I’d originally written something about how social media is infecting the world with yelling and turbo-capitalism, how it feels like we’re penalized for being creative for its own sake. But it’s still hard for me to put those feelings into words that don’t sound straight from the angsty, sometimes judgemental mouth of 17-year-old me.

I messaged a friend about this a few days ago. I still don’t feel like I communicated my feelings to her properly, but this comes closest to how I feel: “For 25 years I’ve been writing and sharing things online and it’s what I know and what I like. The world is so different now and I don’t know how to be part of it.”

It might be obvious that the ongoing implosion of Twitter is what made me think about all of this again. I’m still not sure what I want to do about social media. I used to have an “Instagram is fucked, so you may as well have fun and do what you want” approach to it, but it’s becoming harder when my posts aren’t even being shown to all the people who already follow me. I feel almost embarrassed, like I’ve just been caught talking to myself in the mirror.

It’s funny - I don’t consider myself a very social person, but when I think of a world without relatively immediate access to other people and their feedback and interesting creative ideas, my brain starts to layer a confused white whirr over the concept.

It’s possible that the potential loss of Twitter and the algorithm-hate that runs deep in every Instagram user will lead to the creation of something better. It’s possible too that I just can’t do it anymore, and will have to find some other way to be part of the world, changed as it is.

But in the meantime, I want to share a love letter of sorts to that now-gone world, in the form of an online journal entry from when I was 20. I wrote the HTML in Notepad and created a new design and new page on my website for it (as I did for every entry), and added the “back” and “forth” links manually. People would follow a bookmark to my website and check out the Updates page where I’d post a link to a new journal entry. Sometimes the new thing would be a gallery of photos from a day out exploring, or self-portraits from a day feeling bored and in the mood to photograph something.

That was the internet that shaped me, the quiet, curious one, where you kind of just did whatever, and somehow found people who accepted what you did, the way you showed up.

(“Kind of doing whatever” sometimes meant putting yellow text on an orange background, apparently. Sorry. This was a weird one-off.)

PS, what I’ve been working on:

Kinda weird for this to be a PS, perhaps, but my writing brain has been somewhat dormant lately. Late last month, I mentioned on Instagram that I’d been formulating the nebulous beginnings of a new novel. It happened very soon after I had what I felt was a solid final draft of Seeker of the Lost Song, and I haven’t been attacking this new project with the same energy that I gave to Seeker (once I started to actually write Seeker, that is).

I’ve done quite a lot of worldbuilding for the new project and I’m feeling quite happy with the environment and the general tone and themes - it’s the characters I’m still figuring out. And, for me, they drive everything. Maybe that’s part of the issue. I spent four years with the characters of Seeker, and we had a very intense four months together as I finally wrote the novel. These new people just kind of slid into the room as I was cleaning up and barely paying attention. We’re still kind of circling each other, you know?

I’m trying to not let myself feel guilt or stress about it, but I am beginning to get a little restless. I think I need a solid day to just sit down and brainstorm more ideas to get an outline going, figure out who these new people are and what they have to say.

Thanks for reading,
- Sg.

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