I am at what I would call a pivotal time in my life right now. At 23 years old, I’m past the busy-work of childhood, the insecurities of adolescence, and the indignation of early adulthood. I’ve learned most of the facts, numbers, and definitions that I’ll ever know, but some would say I have close to no experience. I know things but I don’t know things, you know? I don’t think this is too different for most twenty-something Americans. A lot of us occupy a nebulous grey space that lies awkwardly between being nothing and being something. A bunch of us also spend a lot of time on a nebulous grey space that is both nothing and something: the Internet. The Internet defines my generation and I’m okay with that.
My generation is unique because we can barely remember a time before the Internet. Unlike our parents, we don’t see the Internet as an innovation but a fact of life. We’ve also watched it expand and evolve. We remember Yahoo! chat rooms (remember Yahoo with the exclamation point?), Geocities, and Hamster Dance, unlike the generations who have come after us. Children growing up with the Internet today can’t imagine ordering pizza using the phone book, life before Facebook, a time when the noun blogger wasn’t in Webster’s, or, most recently, reading things on fucking pieces of paper. My generation has seen the scope of the Internet firsthand, and we know that it will always get better. It’s the one childhood friend we have that hasn’t had babies and become totally lame and we actually still talk to. The Internet is important to us.
Looking back on my use of the Internet, I can see a trend. As a kid, I obsessively searched for Sailor Moon pictures and printed them at my mom’s office, which was the only color printer I had available to me at the time. I loved making collages of whatever I was into and websites were my main source for images. I also tried to make and maintain my own blogs, but would always get bored and neglect them within a month. When I was a teenager, I probably had ten LiveJournal accounts and loved lurking on a multitude of communities. Whenever I found a photo or drawing that I liked, I would drag it into a folder on my Desktop titled “Good Stuff.” Now, not much has changed. I have a collection of blogs and news websites that I keep up with daily and my Tumblr neatly contains an assemblage of text and visuals that appeal to me. And I still try to put my own writing and art out there when I can.
As a college graduate attempting to find my place in the world, I now realize that what I’ve been doing on the Internet for years has influenced the tangible things I do in “real life.” The photos I have saved on my computer have inspired many of the designs I produce for my graduate classes. The images I expose myself to inspire the articles I produce, and the bloggers I follow online motivate me to be a better, funnier, more coherent and straightforward writer. The bottom line is that I know what I like, and I think that's helped me figure out what I want to do. John Waters said, “Without obsession, life is nothing,” and it’s so true. Our obsessions shape our identities, for better or for worse. And no obsession seems too strange or silly when you can find people across the world with the same one. The Internet lets us to cultivate our obsessions, to create virtual sanctuaries, shrines, and altars to all that we adore. The Internet allows us to create communities based on our obsessions, and expand those obsessions in accordance with what we are exposed to within these communities. Have you ever re-watched a favorite film or flipped through a book you hadn't touched for years and, days later, serendipitously saw stills from the movie or quotes from the novel popping up all over Tumblr? That happened to me a couple months ago after I re-watched Edward Scissorhands for the first time since my childhood. We have somehow managed to create a collective unconsciousness centered around our obsessions, a kind of sixth-sense. And the tangibility of our obsessions wholly depends on how we translate them into our day-to-day lives. When we allow our obsessions to crossover into our writing, our art, our outfits, our conversations, we can put them to use. Our generation will, without a doubt, be defined by our obsessions, including our fixation with the Internet, so why not embrace it?