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Jeremyohmyah commented at 15:30:

I’ll never forget watching a beheading. It was on some website my friend showed me, he sat with his laptop on his knees as I leaned to avoid the glare on the screen. As gruesome as it sounds, it was an important experience. The video opened with a group of Taliban addressing the camera.  Then it panned to the guy, the poor guy, a reporter, and then they cut his head off with a saw. He gurgled, he spluttered, still alive half way through. They sweated, they shouted and prayed. When I was younger I used to listen to the Foo Fighters and play Flashplayer games on my parents’ old desktop for hours. That kid would have been traumatised. Swimming with my horror and despair, I found a warm patch of gratitude. This was the reality, I had been sheltered and now, I guess, I knew.

I’ve been told that generations are defined by the innovation that grows with them; radio, film, television, and the internet. I think it’s insidious. It’s weird to think that your concentration, personality, and dialect can be shaped by a technology, but it makes some kind of sense. I don’t remember the first time I ever sent an e-mail, or used an instant messenger service, but I used them a lot during secondary school. I used to sit at my computer for hours listening to pop-punk and talking to my friends. I don’t even remember the websites I used to go on, or what I used to do apart from talk, gossip most likely. We used to collect emoticons and laugh at them. Most were crude, stick men slapping each other in the face with massive dicks, cartoon characters throwing up on each other, cutting their own cartoon hands off, all sorts of obscenities and violence perfectly caricatured into hilarity. It was immature and childish, but that’s all I can remember doing at the time. Now and then, we’d catch each other saying ‘LOL’ or ‘OMG’ in conversation and laugh, but each and every one of us had done it, and will. Probably more ironically or in the midst of nostalgia as time wears on, but it’ll happen.

Needless to say, as well as talking to people I knew, I talked to people I didn’t. I had no idea what they looked like, if they had brown eyes or blue? No idea. Only names, and even then, some of them were probably made up. I was quite lucky, I never found myself talking to a paedo or some creepy-psycho-dude, everyone I talked too appeared genial, eccentric but nice. My friend introduced me to this girl that he had started talking to on a forum. She was nice, we hit it off, she liked me, we wanted to meet up, she backed out, but we remained friends, from MySpace and beyond. My friendship group and hers had merged together.  I had no idea how to define what they were, other than my friends. It didn’t feel real. Half of the people I knew, I could touch or unfortunately smell. The other half were just words on a screen or a voice through a phone. Then webcams came around, but by that time the strains of any internet relationship had taken its toll. We didn’t talk. The nights I used to spend talking to her on the internet had been replaced by copious amounts of social anxiety, creativity, and small chats with the straggling friends of hers that still liked to talk to me. One was from America, she was an exhibitionist.

The first person I loved, I met when I was sixteen. Hannah was a friend of the exhibitionist and we’d started talking through her. She was from Arizona, had a younger brother, and liked the same music I did, conversation started out that way, but descended into this weird diatribe where I’d constantly be trying to get her out of her shell, and her clothes. The first time I saw her on webcam, she hid under her computer table. When she came out she apologised and told me that she was embarrassed because she didn’t want me to see her blush. Her cheeks were red, her eyes were a clear green, and she smiled and blushed whenever I said anything. We started talking in the summer when I drank too much Red Bull, and a pattern immerged. I would stay up into the early hours of the morning, online, waiting to speak to her. Her profile picture rose like a mechanical sun above the twenty-four hour clock in the bottom right-hand corner of my screen. We talked for months at a time, every night, until school started again. Then it was periodical, until summer, then winter and spring came again, I sat in secondary school classrooms with real people, real teachers talking about real things, waiting for those summer nights that flickered into those summer days that I spent asleep, dreaming of someone I had never laid eyes on.

I started a band with one of my friends shortly after I met Hannah. We covered pop-punk songs on acoustic guitars waiting for the day when we could afford Gibson amps and Fender guitars. We never bought them. The wooded ring of acoustic guitars caught our hearts and ears as our music taste developed. We downloaded songs like we streamed porn, for free. Eventually we wrote our first song, it was called ‘The Best Smile’. (Yeah, you don’t have to tell me, I know). We posted it up on MySpace and managed to get a couple hundred listeners and friends. I used to reply to comments people left on our profile, taking part in a strange sort of small talk that stretched out over seconds or days. Hannah was an avid fan, and even started her own band with her younger brother. In the same vein they wrote soppy love songs, but her brother had a penchant for FruityLoops and they produced weird kinda melodic dishwasher music with angsty teenage poetry sung over the top. Our production was similar; mine fizzled out as I found a newsagent that would sell me alcohol and cigarettes, and hers faded into the aether as she discovered marijuana and cough syrup.

By this time we had been sending videos to each other. They were pretty mundane, taking tours of our houses, playing guitar, covering songs, complimenting each other, or just doodling. They were like little snippets of our own perspective, coded, uploaded, and downloaded into our hard drives, kept safe for whenever we were lonely. We were introverts that had found each other through a convoluted maze of friends-introducing-friends-to-friends on the internet. A part of me could not help but question. Did I actually like her or just a figment of her, made up from the personality I garnered and a personality I wanted to adore? Were we akin to a kind of melancholic love that only festered from a distance? She never thought of it that way, and it’s something I’ll never know.

The first time I went to America was strange. I had always expected I would be meeting Hannah, but that wasn’t the case. I was on a family holiday with my parents going to visit my eldest brother in New York, while he was teaching there. We wanted to spend Christmas and New Years with him. Unfortunately for us, the north-east had been plastered with thick layer of snow. It took us ages to land. Everyone was sat in their seat, rows of people frustrated, twiddling, silently going out of their minds. I was bored, I had finished the only book I had brought, and my laptop was in my parent’s house. Two things happened, I realised how much I depended on the internet, and I realised that meeting Hannah was something I had to do before I died. It would be something I would always regret if I didn’t.
After a tedious week defined by snow in a small apartment with my parents and brother, the snow had melted. We rented an apartment in a complex near Central Park. Fifteen stories high the view was beautiful, and one day when my parents, my brother and his husband, decided to go on a walk through the park, I decided to stay in the apartment because ‘I felt ill’. I messaged Hannah on Facebook, and she called the apartment telephone. We spoke for hours. We repeated ourselves, things we had told each other years previously, and things we had said only an hour or two before. It was weird. I hung up when everyone returned, slamming the phone down onto the receiver, they didn’t notice, they don’t know. I finished the second script I had ever written that night. It was about a guy meeting a girl in a Seattle apartment. He was one of those pretentious, woe-be-gone, protagonists. The love interest was a manic-pixie-dream girl, and the prose was separated by lyrics to Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley. Yeah, it was bad. But Hannah liked it. That meant a lot at the time. My parents and I travelled back to England. I went back to sixth form, and everything went back to normal.

A few days after I came back from New York I made a ‘bucket list’. Other people added to it too (stupid things like ‘don’t listen to music for a week’ – that’s never going to happen), but the most important part on the list, number 103 – Meet H. A year or so later, in the beginnings of my first serious relationship, my girlfriend asked me who ‘H’ was. I lied, I said it was a guy called Harry that I knew in America, not far from the truth, she found out eventually and became nervous anytime Hannah and I talked, but she understood. She had some friends she had met on a self-harm forum she had found in the depths of her addiction to prescription pills. They saved her. She was lucky to have met them. She never understood that. Hannah and I had been growing apart at this point. We were both in relationships with people that looked like the other, and only found time for small talk. But the strange affiliation we had for each other was still there. It lay noticed, locked away from the real-life that was happening around us, waiting.

After both of our relationships had dissipated we found ourselves in a strange place. We had both changed. Slowly, we began to talk again. We started to use Skype. It was as if we were in the same room. The only thing that separated us was the Atlantic. At the time she was living with her parents, waiting to save up enough money to move to the nearest big city. It was obvious to me that she had changed. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I assumed that she was working through the desolation of a break-up. She smoked marijuana every day, she drank cough syrup, she drank like a fish, she slept with co-workers, lamenting each mistake, and relayed each detail as I offered advice or thoughts, trying to distract her from a melancholy that had started to envelope her. Though she told me every aspect of her life, it wasn’t enough. I wanted to know everything but that was something that would never happen. It would only happen if we’d met. This brings us to the present. We talk periodically like we used to eight years ago; little updates, like tweets, or statuses:

‘Hey, I just finished work. Made $200 in tips! How’s everythingg going? Long time no talkk.’ She always replies in her car after work.
‘That’s awesome, man. Things are cool, got bareee university work to do. Seriously. It’s killing me.’

I’m writing this because I realised I haven’t changed; elbows pointed into my desk, staring at Microsoft Word, trying to write something down. I can hardly concentrate, there’s always a YouTube video to watch, articles about serial killers, or bacteria on other planets on their moons, evidence of water, or people divulging their darkest secrets, Teachers, have you ever thought about punching a kid, if so why?, thousands of threads, replies and comments to sift through, you know like this one, or pictures of cats, corgi-husky mixes, corgi-border-collie mixes, LiveLeaks of security guards tasing drug dealers, forums dedicated to TV shows, cult movies, memes of politicians, singers, and ordinary people, art blogs, graphic design blogs, writing blogs, repeating the same advice over and over, shut up and write. It became easier when I realised what I have to write about:

TL;DR – In twenty years, if someone said to me that I was part of an Internet generation, that my life, the lingo shared between my friends, my taste in films, music, television, books, my concentration, my education, my personality, were all effected by the internet, I would have to agree. I can’t imagine being without it. I watch films and television on the internet; I listen to radio shows on internet; I listen to bands that found fame on the internet; I download books and graphic novels; I read newspapers on the internet; I practically use this website as my morning newspaper; I’ve met good friends on the internet; I’ve fallen in love over the internet; I’ve seen someone die because of the internet; I’ve studied university courses on the internet; I am the internet and the internet is me. It’s the only place where you can witness multiple facets and myriads of humanity and society, different mediums, opinions and politics all humming together in a Pixelated mess. It’s an unedited dump of freedom. It’s every part of our minds, every part of societies across the world in one place, good and bad. We are the internet, the internet is you.

Muchtodoaboutmuffins replied to Jeremyohmyah at 15:40:
I think a lot this has to do with your own personality. You sound like the type of guy that’s quite introverted and withdrawn. Consequently, the availability of the internet has provided a lot to your life. Not to shit on your philosophical parade or anything.

KerryWilliams replied to Jeremyohmyah at 15:43:
This is so sweet. You should talk to her more. Don’t lose contact!!!

P9ijngkes replied to Jeremyohmyah at 15:44:
After reading this exhaustive shithouse two things who cares and the internet is what we make it

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5 comments

  1. Hi, my name is Andie and I work with an online publisher named River Ram Press (Riverrampress.com- please give a visit!) each month we feature a new author and one of their pieces on our blog. This month I would like to feature you and this post, if that’s alright with you. Let me know if you would be interested, it would be a good way to garnish some exposure!

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