Back in 2001 I created a website for a cat named Yoda. My mom and I had gone to the local humane society and I fell in love with this cat. He was physically disabled, so much so that it would be nearly impossible for him to walk. My heart went out to him and when my mother inevitably said that we couldn't get him I took to the internet to try to find him home.
It failed because, well, I was a child and had made a website on a little website called 'matmice'- or my gateway drug into geocities.
I never did find out what happened to Yoda. Hopefully he lived a good life with someone who could care for him.
That was just the start of my website making adventures.
I remember being frustrated in computer lab because my teacher said we could only use actual internet sources for our report on the Civil War.
So instead of just finding a website and doing my report the old fashioned way- I made my own Civil War website. I gave it to all of my friends and my teach was none the wiser!
After all- how did this fourth grader know how to make complex websites- complete with cited sources and shitty animated American flag gifs?
How would I have made that site as a 9 year-old today? I wouldn't have. I would have posted it on TikTok, or Instagram and it would have been invariably lost in the sea of posts. Not because it wasn't important- but because it's not making anybody money.
That's the problem with the modern day internet. The internet of my childhood has been co-opted by Jeffrey, Marcus, Tim, and Jack. I'll let Tom stay because at least MySpace let us customize our profiles.
But how did we get here? How did our beloved internet become so bland and boring?
I remember customizing my MySpace profile with custom songs, a sweet Johnny Cash background with him flipping off the camera and even a cool script to make it look like it was raining- what a badass.
But when Facebook came around, I saw it as a refuge away from the autoplaying music and the heavily customized profiles that made it really difficult to read the text.
Facebook was the answer to the customized web and we fell for it.
Just the other day my daughter and her friends were overjoyed because Instagram finally let you put your preferred pronouns in your profile. Like what? Make your own webpage and you can put whatever the hell you want on that sucker! And that's when it clicked for me.
I HATED NOSTALGIA. Up until the Spring of 2021, I had avoided nostalgia like the plague. I hated the feeling of remembering a place I could never return to- my bedroom of 1999 playing Super Mario 64 until dinner time, or riding bikes with my friends to the river to talk about Runescape or Weird Al Yankovic songs.
I began writing a song called 'Raspberry Lemonade'. I wanted to recall the summers of my childhood and the strange fog that is nostalgia. Little did I know what that would do to me. I was teleported back to 1999- and while it hurt that I couldn't go back, I realized that nostalgia didn't have to be bitter- it could be sweet too, just like raspberry lemonade.
Nostalgia isn't just a reminder of the things past- it's a tool to remind you of how things were better or worse. We often remember things better than they were- but in the case of the custom internet- that's actually true.
My daughters are growing up on the commercial web. They don't remember message boards, and AIM profiles, and the joy of finding a website by chance. They lovingly give away every piece of themselves just so they can compete with others on apps like TikTok and Instagram for likes.
We've completely reduced the human experience that was extended by the custom interweb of the 90's and 00's by flattening it into microclips and sound bytes, all in search of the almighty dollar.
Not anymore! I'm tired of giving pieces of myself to faceless megacorporations- no, if people want a piece of me, they'll have to come to my house to play- to ring my doorbell and ask if Auzzie can come out and play- and no he won't be able to because we're about to eat dinner and it's a school night, but I'll let him know you were here.