When I grew up there were no such thing as Facebook or MySpace. No Google or YouTube. A Nordic version of Facebook hit the Internet when I became a teenager, it was called “Lunarstorm”. You created your own profile page, chose an avatar and collected friends. The basics were pretty much the same. You could PM people, and “poke” them if you had a crush.The only real difference was that you never wrote your real name anywhere. That, and also Lunarstorm was an aesthetic nightmare! Lunarstorm died when Facebook started to gain members.
My first though when I heard about Facebook in 2007 was “omg how can anyone be so stupid and put their real name online? Losers!1“. My whole life I’d been told to never, ever give out my real name online. Predators were said to lurk everywhere online, just waiting to lure you into a shady cam session. Around that time blogs became popular and mainstream. The Swedish version of “Metro” even put the blogger Kenza on their first page, writing about this new Internet trend in late 2007. I’ve never heard about blogs before. This was the time I moved to Skövde to study computer games at University. To me it seemed so strange. I mean, when I was a kid you wrote about your life, your dreams, your fears and how you felt in a personal diary. You put a lock on it, hiding it in your closet. If anyone dared to read your diary you felt so violated, so angry and sad. And here they were; young people like Kenza, writing about their lives online, telling absolutely everything to anyone who felt like reading. My friend Ola said: “it’s like a message in a bottle. You write something, throw it out there and hope for someone to find it and read it.”
I browsed Kenza’s blog and immediately felt dirty. Like some old man hiding in the bushes, trying to get a sneak peek of her in the bathroom, trough the window. This is crazy, I said to myself. Today, a little more than five years later, I run my own blog with over 16 000 views in 12 months, I got a Twitter with 1000 followers and I update my Facebook at last daily. How did we come to this? Is it even possible to tell if it’s good or bad?
When I were around 10 or 11 years old we started having computer education in my school. It was all Netscape, Altavista and CDROM. I remember those rather confusing days in class, how the teacher tried to figure out how it all worked, and what was she supposed to teach us really? I dreamed of my own e-mail, to get pen palls from all over the world. I tried to grasp this whole www-thingy. I realized you could find online communities and talk to like-minded about your interests. I found web-pages about my favorite idols! I didn’t know much English at this point, and struggled to understand how to navigate the web. There still were no such thing as Facebook, no Google and no YouTube. Most newspapers did not have a web page. We did not have a computer at home, so I stayed late at my fathers job, playing Red Alert and drawing in Paint, using Windows -95. Bonsai kittens became a big thing a few years later. Everyone of my 15-year old friends were so upset about those cats. I’m pretty sure a lot of them still haven’t figured out until this day it was all a joke…
Me and my sister discovered LimeWire, Google stared to become popular and soon this new browser called “Firefox” emerged on the scene. G-mail started to compete with Hotmail. Back to Skövde late 2007. I joined Facebook. Simply because all my friends had joined and started tagging me in photos, sending me e-mails I should join. I remember how MSN-messenger still was cool, and Skype was a new thing. Soon everyone I knew were on FB. It was considered strange not to be part of the site. People asked you for a reason if you didn’t have an account, a bit like if you go to a party and don’t drink alcohol. It’s considered almost a philosophical or political standpoint today.
Nothing Is Only God or Bad
I’m not native of the Internet-generation, I was born before it became mainstream. To me the “save”-icon i games and programs still means “floppy disk”, not just “save”. My 9 moth old brother will probably never get the connection when he grows up. I still remember my first Nokia that could contain up to 14 messages in the in-box at the same time. I remember when touch screen devices were something that belonged to Minority Report. Today I spend almost all my time in front of a screen in one way or another. I work with video games, I draw digitally when I get home, and I browse my iPhone when riding the metro every morning. It’s hard to imagine what my life would be without computers. Or without Facebook. That’s so strange. All of my top ten luckiest memories feature my IRL friends, family or physical exercise like wind surfing, diving or swimming. Only one of them features something Facebook-related.
I’ve been told my whole life being online is almost a bad thing for you. Your body gets hurt, your mind becomes weak. You get a shorter attention span. You do nothing real. I might agree that my body is taking some stress, and yes, I do still think of afk as the real life. But I don’t think online is purely bad for you.
This sometimes make me confused. I get told it’s bad to share too much stuff about yourself. That you are giving away your own private life to Facebook for nothing in return. I sometimes try to minimize my time on social media, and it feels really great. But then I miss all those friend, and I get back online.
When I was in Egypt last year, I went online for a maximum of 15 minutes each day. Wonderful! But then again I had so much IRL stuff to do, diving, hanging out with my family and all sorts of amazing stuff.
To me hanging on Facebook feels like visiting a graveyard. You don’t really talk to anyone. You only remember those days that already passed, by remembering all your friends. All the fun things happened somewhere else, not in the graveyard (people plan events on Facebook but attends them IRL.). You visit representations of your friends (their walls and albums), and lay some flowers on their graves (like and comment). But it’s not real life. Its only echoes of the past. You are alone, but it feels almost as if it’s real. Because in your head it all comes to life. Next time you get back to the graveyard someone has laid flowers at your own grave (liked or posted a funny link on your wall). The two of you still don’t meet, but it feels almost like human interaction. Too often I find myself thinking “is this a photo I would put on Facebook”, and instead of giving my friend a call I like her new profile photo. I’m starting to feel as if this is being trapped between two worlds. I’m not really living IRL, nor do I want to hang out this much online. I end up in some kind of twilight zone. A place that too often makes me sad or angry. Leaving me unsatisfied.
Some days I feel like I don’t really want to be part of the human species anymore. Each day I read bout gang rape, abut animals that go extinct, about murder or other cruelty. The Internet made the world a small place. It’s wonderful to have the possibility to search for information, to get friends in all parts of the world, but you get to see so much shit.
f I make a list of different kinds of interaction with other human beings, it would look something like this:
1. Meeting someone IRL and hang out. It makes me happy and brings new lasting impressions and ideas, energy into my life.
2. A phone call with family or friends. Makes me happy : D
3. A real written letter delivered to me by the mail service. I still get some of them, and the wedding invitation from my Twitter friends Hollie and Chris living in the US was a true highlight of 2012! Still trying to decide if I’m buying ticket to attend it in July, in Minnesota : D
4. An e-mail to my private e-mail address. Long, well written e-mails from people I like makes me happy and warm at heart.
5. Comments on Facebook or Twitter. Kinda leaves me wanting more. A comment is read in seconds, and two days later you forget it was ever written, unless it’s something really, really special like an old friend getting back in touch or 100 people wishing you happy birthday on your birthday.
6. A “like” on Facebook or a “star” on Twitter. Doesn’t really make up for human interaction in any way, just makes me miss my friends even more. A like is quickly forgotten and no matter how many you get, if the right people did not click like you feel sad, which is insane really. There’s a cleaver and fun article in Swedish about this [here]. How sad we get if no one presses “like” on our new profile photo.
I quit Instagram a while ago, because it just felt so shallow. I know some people are having a very vivid life online. They might be very shy in real life, or they can’t leave their home. They might get bullied in school and have found a sanctuary online. I have many friends who have found long lasting friendship when joining guilds in World of Warcraft, a friend even found his wife in a MUD. The Internet can be an amazing place where you can share your opinions, publish your own music, browse reference images for drawing…I do not deny all of this. The thing is I just feel like it’s time for me to start living a bit more offline.
Three months ago I left Malmö for my new job in Stockholm. I left my gang of crazy Malmö-friends. Now I live in a suburb near Stockholm, and it takes me about 30 minutes at least to get into the city, to meet up with Stockholm-friends. I’ve noticed that the more family and friends I got hanging around, the less I use the Internet. I think I’m using the web like this right now because I’m in a place where I haven’t found out where my home rally is, where I belong. I browse the Internet because my friends are hard to meet and I’m bored.
This week’s sick leave at home, hanging out even more in front of the computer than usual, made me realize I want to focus on the real life. I need to be bored without surfing online. Quite often the most amazing things come to life if you are bored and have no way of distracted yourself. I’ts important to be bored sometimes. I hate going to parties where everyone is just browsing their phones, not talking to each other : /
I don’t mean to upset anyone with this, and I respect that others might not share my view. This is just how I feel for now. To all my friends on Facebook, you got my phone number, my Skype or my e-mail address. If you want to contact me, don’t be shy to send an SMS or an e-mail. I will also bee visiting my blog when I feel like it.
I will be back. Maybe.