Blog: I’m Scared of the Small Web

31 Jan 2024

I have always had a personal website/blog ever since I started making them back in the late 90s. I think this is due to a combination of having nothing better to do with my days as a disabled person and the fact that creating with code and words has never stopped being a source of dopamine for me. And who am I to deny myself dopamine?!

But I also think I have a bit of, well… personal web trauma. I debated calling it “trauma” because it’s not as though it’s so distressing that it has the potential to ruin my life, but it does leave me feeling a certain level of anxiety every time I try to engage socially with other web revivalists.

I was nine when we moved from the city to the country. I still had plenty of friends at that point, but because my time with them was limited to school hours, landline-based phone calls, and the occasional sleepover whenever our parents had the time to drive us the 10 to 30km between each other’s houses, I began to feel a little bit isolated.

When we got our first internet-capable computer in 1997, I was so excited. I’d used the internet at school and at other people’s houses, but I’d never had the chance to really explore it. I was an “encyclopaedia kid”, so having (almost) unlimited access to the ultimate encyclopaedia was a dream come true. Little did I know that it would eventually also become my preferred tool for socialising.

Because child safety and privacy on the internet didn’t start to become a ~thing~ until after I turned 13, I spent a lot of time in chat rooms with other “kids” talking about our favourite things. I still remember the first close friend I made. She was from Canada, and we bonded over our shared love of British boybands. We even got to have a few long-distance phone calls and send each other goodies.

My love of British boybands (and the Spice Girls!) is what led me to discover fansites, which then led to me wanting to make my own fansites and eventually, my own personal website. Like an encyclopaedia of me! Way cool. From there, I made friends with people from all over the world through their own personal websites. We’d email each other daily or we’d chat with each other about anything and everything on MSN Messenger, AIM or ICQ, if timezones allowed. It was fantastic.

Over the next few years, personal websites morphed into blogs, which I embraced wholeheartedly. I have always found typing to be a soothing experience for me, so any excuse to tippy tap was appreciated by me. Sure, personal websites often had a journal component, but not in the same way blogs did. I loved having new content to read every day from friends and strangers alike.

During this period of time, general discussion message boards for bloggers also became incredibly popular. I joined a lot of them, but it wasn’t until I joined one particular forum in the mid-2000s that I felt like I’d really found my people. The bloggers who used this forum were somehow different to those I’d encountered before. Less “surface” and more willing to engage in discussions I’d only really had with close friends before.

But this forum is also where I found out that, despite my genius IQ and years of gifted and talented classes (🙄), effective communication wasn’t a strong point. Instead of taking the L and trying to recognise the flaws in the way I presented my often confusing viewpoints, I got into A LOT of fights (or eDrama, as it was called then). Then, in an attempt to save the friendship (or just face), I would pretend as though what I said was a “social experiment” or say that I was playing Devil’s advocate.

This has only been made worse by the centralised social media years where I wasn’t only interacting with a relatively small community of bloggers, but also random strangers who used the search function specifically to find people to argue with. As an ineffective communicator with an aversion to black-and-white thinking, I was a perfect target for these people. I eventually figured out that the mute function was the best way to handle these people, but it took some time.

I have worked hard on my communication and conflict resolution skills, but I am still so scared to push myself into a new space in case it’s the same experience all over again. Even if I vow not to express myself in a way others could find problematic, I still worry that ~something~ will slip and there’ll be unnecessary drama as a result. I am an opinionated and passionate person, so holding back is difficult, and having ADHD doesn’t help.

This internal conflict really sucks because I have made some amazing and long-term friends from the personal web/blogging and I would absolutely love to make more. The sheer amount of interesting people out there engaging with the personal web right now is astounding, but my asshole brain is so worried about potentially offending them to the point of unresolvable conflict that I can’t reach out to them.

I just want to feel comfortable in being social on the internet again, I guess.

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