I’ll be 26 this year and this has got me all reflective and shit.
So this time nearly a decade ago I was probably lying in the foetal position, due to being a loner misfit, sick of pretending to enjoy the start of the six-week Summer Holidays. The Summer of 2008 marked the end of high school life – which was pretty unbearable – and the terrifying transition into college. Additionally this particular Summer got off to a frickin’ flyer, as I had just experienced my first and by far the worst ever heartbreak.
I recall countless mornings of entering the kitchen to say hi to the rents, only for my ‘hey, I’m feeling much better today-‘ to crumble into a theatrical sob.
But it was OK. I didn’t have to suffer in solitude anymore! Because this year also saw the birth of mine and many of my school-peers’ Facebook profiles. Facebook was a new and intriguing model, and had remained a bit of an ambiguous sidenote – a new and potentially faddy trend – at least from my societal standpoint. But it wouldn’t be long before social networking would become integral to the fabric of millennial existence. Being a teenager would be so much more freeform and ‘fun-times’ now!
And now for some throwbacks!
Here are 7 things that were… ‘a thing*’ … in the mid-to-late noughties, shit that shaped me as a mid-twenties misfit millennial today. Shit I’m quite happy to see the back of.
*Some of these things may well still be ‘a thing’, so what I’m suggesting is that these were – but are no longer – CENTRAL aspects of our sense of identity and belonging.
#1 MSN Messenger
If you didn’t go on MSN after school… did you even exist?
Oh and note to younger self: if you’re going to bitch and moan about your bezzy mates, don’t do it over MSN. My turbulent first relationship came to a dramatic end in the online arena. It resulted in my ex taking a saved conversation of me moaning about my friends and sending it to said friends the moment I declared we were finished. Ouch.
#2 ‘Hot or Not?’ – the Facebook app
‘Hot or Not?’ was/is a game disguised as a dating service which had become a popular Facebook ‘app’ by the time I had signed up. Participants would be shown a random Facebook profile photo, and it was up to the voyeur/other participants to decide if that person was ‘HOT’ or, quite simply, ‘NOT’. As a participant, your profile would be given a rating on this basis, AND you would land yourself on the ‘Hot-list’ if you scored high enough… As an added bonus, you were given an option to reach out to the ‘hotties’ before moving on. How romantic!
Sure it’s just a bit of fun. I love fun. And present-day apps like Tinder suggest there is still plenty of fun to be had from this format. But as a naive and insecure sixteen-year-old, new to the social networking world, a curious teenager lacking the capacity to control privacy settings and too flattered/polite NOT to allow participants to send dirty-flirty or abusive PMs… well it was just a little creepy. And don’t even get me started on the effect this had on my body image and self-esteem. Next thing you know my profile picture transformed from goofy innocence to… well… erm…
4chan was/is mildly entertaining and revolutionary for its invention of ‘lolcats’, memes and, of course, ‘rickrolling’… and it is quite amazing that it expanded so far as to become a hub for activism and infamous large-scale pranks. But it is also a troll-cave. The activism is predominantly right-wing, and many people still refer to it today to get their fix of incredibly un-PC memes, free nudey-pics, and abusive posts.
Its so-called “dark comedy”, the intention of “doing it for the lulz” (a corruption of the more innocent ‘LOL’) in an environment protected by anonymity and lack of archiving, is often antagonistic towards social justice movements: feminism, LGBTQ, body positivity, diversity and equality.
Basically it was a bad influence in my time of growing up, and, sadly, still stands firm.
#4 Bebo (remember that?)
Whew, I am having to cast my mind way back now… did I suppress Bebo? Was it that bad?
Well, what I do remember is that this was the first online profile platform I ever used. And as it marked the beginning of my own dealings with cyber-narcissism… I’m bunging it on the throwback-blacklist. Be-BYE… (terrible pun).
#5 ‘Facebook Official’
Now don’t get me wrong, it felt awesome to share my marital status to friends online when Ruben and I got hitched. But when I was a teenager and relationships were the be-all and end-all, the Facebook relationship status was an unhealthy obsession.
“We were never in a serious relationship, because it wasn’t Facebook Official”…
However, how utterly fascinating would it be when I saw an online friend’s status change from “In a Relationship” to… “It’s Complicated”?!
WILL WE EVER FIND OUT WHY?! PLS TELL US.
#6 Waaaay-too-personal email addresses
Le sigh. Once upon a time it was hip to give yourself a suggestive, attractive email address… firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com… or something like that… except we were too young to know how unwise that would be when applying for a degree, or a job…
“Yes, I am delighted to accept your offer of the Corporate Events Organiser position at your business.. please forward the details to firstname.lastname@example.org…”
Of course, I had a super-inflated ego when it came to my physical appearance, which is why, after much deliberation, I landed on “miss.personality”…
LOOKS ARENT EVERYTHING, K.
#7 MySpace presence
I haven’t got major beef with MySpace. I shared my own songwriting on there and got a nice following – for that I’m grateful.
But it also spawned the somewhat unnatural and awkward art of the selfie. Make of that what you will.
It was hard enough holding a 1kg whopper of an SLR digital camera in such a way that you could see yourself in the screen in the mirror, LET ALONE contorting your body to look as slender as possible.
Here are some of my own humdingers:
Nice cropping. No one will know I’m holding the camera, mwa-ha-ha…
Ah, the thin-arm-manoeuvre. Also, I’m enjoying the scene-teen hair right now…
WTF? Am I holding a clock?! WHERE AM I LOOKING?! I DNT UNDERSTANDdkjsfdhkjgh.
Nowadays? Two cameras, a timer and a photoshop app all on your teeny-tiny smartphone. The youth of today don’t know how easy they get it.
What are the upsides?
Well, thanks to social networking we are exposed to much more diversity. We can communicate with friends across the globe. We can access information with a single click. We have a greater awareness of international affairs. And our memories are (rightly or wrongly) preserved forever in cyberspace. There are many, many upsides which I simply don’t have energy to go into in this particular post. It’s a list post, not a thesis.
But quite simply, I’m ready to move on from the above. For better or worse they have turned me into the person I am today. But, in any case, I’m happy to forget they ever existed.
Teenagers are faced with equally challenging circumstances today. The fluidity and adaptability of the Internet means that kids now and later might never know what it means to exist without an online presence. That’s so weird.
I’d be interested to know what online adolescence looks like these days, and how it feels… so if you know anyone or want to share your point of view… well… you know where to find me…
Peace, love and happy scrolling,