The thing is, I’ve been “on the internet” for more than 10 years now. We got a computer when I was in third grade, a Mac LC, and I loved it. KidPix, MathBlaster, so much Carmen Sandiego its hard to believe. This is pre-internet, though. Throughout elementary school I had very little contact with the newly minted world wide web. A friend of mine’s family had Prodigy installed and we used to sneak on to her older brother’s account (I still remember his password “bc” repeating til the field filled up) to troll message boards.
Sometime in the 6th grade my Dad brought his laptop home from work with America Online loaded up. I fell in love. He helped me create a screen named (I would be “Emerald216” for years) and I was hooked. For a long time we didn’t have a modem for our home computer and the only way for me to get online was to plug a phone cord into my Dad’s laptop. I used to perch on a step stool at the kitchen counter where the cord barely stretched.
I became a prominent poster on a message board hosted at AOL Keyword “60 Second Novelist”. It was a political debate board and even at 12, I loved a good argument. I signed my posts “Emma”.
By this time, we had a 28.8 modem hooked up to the main computer. This was back in the day when you still paid for AOL per minute. I like to joke that much of my adolescence was spent with someone yelling “Martha, get off the computer!” as I tied up the phone line.
Eventually, I became active in the AOL “roleplaying” scene. This is a fact I like to bust out when people are disputing my closet-geekdom. There really isn’t anything geekier than pretending to be a pseudo-medieval woman in a chat room. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Soon, though, I discovered I liked corresponding with people “Out of Character” (OOC) better than “In Character”. (Though I still played occasionally with my favorite partners for years, probably until I was 16.) AOL had whole OOC boards and I started writing a lot on one called “Random Thoughts”. Some of the people I met on Random Thoughts are now my oldest internet friends.
Random Thoughts dissolved years ago, though. And I’ve long since given up my AOL account. A lot of the folks I’d met there, though, moved to Livejournal, where I also set up shop my senior year in high school. My Livejournal is a lot like my paper journal. Angsty. A lot of feelings and whining. Showcases the parts of me that have remained the same since I was 17. Which is nice, I think, to an extent. But lately, I’ve started to feel a little….stifled.
And then I started to think, this will be the record of who I was? I wanted something else, something more. A space specifically for me to grapple with my queer identity, my feminist politics. To proselytize about my favorite books. To question gender and capitalism. To think “outside the box”.
I wanted it recorded for my future daughters. I wanted to leave them something more. So, here’s hoping I can do it.