For some reason I was recently reminded of Geocities, the web-hosting giants of the mid-to-late-nineties responsible for a ridiculous amount of Hanson fan pages. I started thinking about how such a big part of the internet could just disappear, effectively wiping a big chunk of web history (and horrible animated gifs and oversized, multi-colored font) off the world wide web. I have to admit, I felt a tinge of nostalgia.
To me, Geocities will always stand for a more innocent time in the internet, when we were still marveling at all the possibilities this new and exciting communications tool could offer, before the familiarity and jadedness settled in. This all got me thinking about those days– the dawn of my internet usage. The crazy innocence and wide-eyed sugarshot sense of wonder and astonishment of it all. I very distinctly remember my neighborhood friend showing me his new computer with internet connection. I remember him showing me a website where you could chat with people. Chat with people! Strangers from other countries! And they were all so interesting and had so many stories and were so interested in what I had to say! I remember thinking, “if I had one of these things, I’d be chatting with friendly strangers all day!”.
My dad eventually bought a computer and a dial-up internet subscription, and I quickly created my first Geocities website, fascinated by the notion that my words could be accessible to millions. It was sloppy and ridiculously colorful and had an enormously long and complicated URL. I remember the hours it took me to put together the most basic HTML code to get my Dragon Ball Z fansite up and running and gather the record-shattering 48 visits it eventually got (45 of which were probably my own). My super-high-speed 56k dial-up modem hard at work.
Dragon Ball was, of course, an obsession of mine at the time, so I sought out all I could find. I joined my first few mailing lists– this girl, Sarah, from my hometown, had a Dragon Ball fanfiction website and introduced me to all her friends from places like the United States and Belgium, and they’d just exchange crazy e-mail messages about Dragon Ball every day. One day I actually met Sarah, effectively making her my first net-to-real-life contact. Since then, I’ve made some of the most important connections of my life through the magic of the internet. But it seemed like such a strange notion at the time.
It wasn’t long after that I started losing interest in Dragon Ball and had an epiphany– this internet thing is pretty anonymous, right? I could just lie about who I am. And so I started creating online personas and joining message boards and mailing lists as all these different people. Johnny, a punk rocker from Syracuse, New York. Mike, a wealthy businessman in search for true love. Jennifer, an Irish girl who was an aspiring writer. And I made many friends while under the guise of those different personas, like a preteen Catfish.
To this day, I will exchange pleasantries with those web peeps on the rare occasion that I log onto my old AIM account– “Yeah, man, I got married”, “Yeah, dude, still jamming with the guys”. I know it probably makes me a bad person but I really don’t have it in me to let them know I’ve been lying to them for over a decade.
All these people I’ve accumulated and talked to and been over the course of… what, 12 years? I’ve been blogging for a good eight years (maintaining a Livejournal and a Xanga before this site). If any of those logs were to be wiped off the map like Geocities, I’d be pretty devastated. They are, after all, a record of who I was, who I’ve been and who I am becoming. A modern-day snapshot, like an old high school diary. And sure, their Google caches may live on– but that’s a mere skeleton of what once was, filled with unclickable links and broken pictures. It’s actually kind of depressing.
You know, every once in a while I read my old Xanga blog. And now I’m filled with the need to find that old Geocities site, and it makes me pretty sad to know that it’s completely gone. Something in me wants to go through all the ridiculousness that my 13 year old self felt like he had to tell the world, longwinded rants on a web-based soapbox, pushing opinions down everybody’s throats, all while finding himself wildly entertaining.
Things haven’t really changed that much, I guess.