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We often get to our real selves from inhabiting false selves first, lying our way into a legitimate identity.
People’s screen names are hilarious now because they are fence-swinging gestures at identities before any of us actually had identities, like throwing darts, blindfolded, at a list of qualities that might meaningfully define a person.
The modem start-up noise was, for me and for many people of my generation, the ritual that permitted the crossing from the mundane realm to the fantastical one.
The long static of the dial-up modem resolved into a friendly chime, and I was online.
* Today, when people on the internet say the word “online” it’s a joke, and part of the joke is that the phrase once had a great deal of meaning and now has none. The official self is here; online is the town as much as the town itself is.
In our real lives, the ones with rental agreements and tax forms, the ones that the banks and the government know about, our fixed identities act as a tether.
In these unmarked spaces, it becomes possible to imagine how we might exist with each other without laws and obligation, inheritance and surveillance, money and family.
Puberty had made me suddenly and all at once un-beautiful, and the way other kids shunned me had become decidedly more cruel as we all began to discover that everybody else had bodies.
It was spring of 1995, and had just begun to invade suburban homes by way of friendly, accessible floppy disks that arrived in the mail in plastic-wrapped bundles.
My parents had installed a large desktop computer in the upstairs alcove, and each day there were a few precious hours before they got home from work but after I got home from school when I could go online.
On December 15th, when Instant Messenger disappears, wiping all chat logs and buddy lists from the internet for good, my daily life will not change at all, and neither will the daily lives of the vast majority of people whose adolescence was defined by an icon of a yellow genderless figure in motion—the internet, this place where we all live now, has far outgrown this one application.
But for some of us, people uncomfortably situated right at the seam of a wholly online world and a time before the internet, something will be lost to history.