It goes like this: You’re twelve years old and you discover the Internet. You and your younger brother go online and join a chatroom. Your username is ‘cheeseburger’ and you do this because you are never allowed to eat cheeseburgers and ‘burger’ sounds
like ‘bugger’, and what would your parents say?
You troll the chatroom posting stupid shit, but you don’t know what trolling is because you haven’t received loosely veiled death threats yet. Yet. Later you will become a real person who is interested in real things and so you join message boards to talk about them. You make friends who you call ‘friends’ for the next ten years of your life because you don’t know what else to call them. One of them dies, days before 9/11 and you sit in front of the desktop computer crying as the crappy modem buzzes in your ears. Disconnect, reconnect. Your dad comes upstairs and sees you crying and threatens to ban you from the Internet.
Five years later you discover Facebook. It’s in the early stages, at least at your university, and you have six friends. Within the year this number rises to over two hundred.
You’re in your early twenties when Twitter starts and you feel a sense of both justification and bitterness, remembering how your classmates at school used to bully you for having a blog. You have six hundred friends on Facebook and ‘oversharing’ is a part of life. You weed out the details; vague updates when you break up with your boyfriend but falling mysteriously quiet when it’s time for your abortion. No one replies, any how.
You are in your early to mid twenties and are active on twitter. You average fifteen to forty tweets a day. People know where you are at all times and what you are doing. Complete strangers recognise you from the internet. You follow people you admire and pretend not to notice when they don’t follow you back. Occasionally you feel good about yourself and take a picture with your phone’s camera, or webcam, and show the world. Great hair day. People like your status.
Your phone buzzes every hour, half hour, five minutes with notifications. You don’t notice because everyone else’s does. You go out for drinks with a friend and she looks up occasionally to reply, in the middle of answering an email. You grow to hate it but hey, you’re exactly the same.
Your boyfriend is in bed with you. He’s rubbing your back and you feel calm. Happy. His phone buzzes and he gets up to check it. It’s his ex-girlfriend. He stands in the dark, the phone screen illuminating his naked body, and replies. He comes back to bed and kisses you. Cuddle up. The phone vibrates again and he gets up to answer it. You feel simultaneously present and disconnected from the situation. Doesn’t matter, everyone does it.
You grow to hate mobile phones. Technology. You hate the Internet but still use it, paste yourself onto it when you need someone else’s affirmation. A status, a photo, a message board post. You have never deleted anything. It’s got you into trouble before, this loyal archiving of your life.
You sit down to watch television and your phone buzzes. You go into the kitchen to make a coffee and a phone buzzes. In bed, moments after setting yourself an alarm a phone buzzes. You are never. You are never alone. There is a part of you that never sleeps,
even when you are asleep. You post fake things, opinions you don’t really own and people reply to them. You are never alone, and you can’t decide which reality you prefer any more. You can’t decide whether you want to disconnect and run away or plug yourself in for another charge.
I wrote this on my iphone.