I am definitely about to date myself, but I do remember the first family computer my dad brought home. It was 1992, and my dad was picking me up from a birthday party at the local playground. In the backseat — a brand new Mac LC that smelled like fresh cardboard box. At age 6, I think I was initially more fascinated by the box than what was in it. The box ended up in my playroom, the computer ended up in the living room, where my parents could safely monitor me while I played Math Blaster, practiced in Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and navigated the treacherous Oregon Trail (my parents were big on the educational computer games).
We were one of the first of my friends’ families to get internet, and I learned pretty early on that even if I could manage to sneak in some unparentally-policed computer time, the screech and whine of our modem was impossible to hide from prying parental ears. Pretty soon, I was expertly timing my AIM sessions and forbidden forays into chat rooms for after my parents went to sleep. So many nights of my adolescence were spent sitting in the uncomfortable gray desk chair in front of our family computer screen, I’m surprised that chair doesn’t bear a permanent butt imprint from my adolescent ass.
My generation was the first to grow up with that constant sense of connectivity, that feeling that even if we were alone in our living rooms, we were never really alone on the world wide web. That no matter how strange our interests, or how unacceptable our love of Anne Rice novels might have been in our seventh grade classrooms (hypothetically speaking, of course), we could still find a community in some corner of GeoCities or AIM. That’s a potent power to give someone during what are supposed to be the most awkward and isolating years of your development, and I think it’s why so many of us live and die by our social media networks, and why social networking is only going to grow and expand as our influence in the world — and on the internet — does.
So, happy birthday internet. You may be a few decades older than me, but I still feel like we grew up together.