Wednesday, 1 June 2011
I am not enormously technologically minded. I prefer my mobile phone to just be a phone rather than all singing all dancing and if given the choice, I'd rather write information on paper with a pen than use an iPad, but I do love the internet...
I was slow to warm to my first computer, hoping when my mother handed me a large box, that it was wine glasses instead. On finding a new shiny laptop, I wasn't quite sure what the hell to do with it, even when people suggested going online. In my defence, Web 2.0 hadn't happened yet so the internet appeared to just be full of price comparison sites and porn, neither of which much appealed. Plus I lived in a house with five other people, only one phone socket and a dial up connection that cost a fortune and could only accessed by sitting on the floor outside the kitchen.
It wasn't until I was shown the ways of Ebay that the internet started to have any resonance in my life as I discovered a penchant for vintage shopping at odd hours of the day with a cup of tea to hand. The arrival of cheap broadband in my life soon had me dabbling in the selling side as well as that interest in vintage helped pay for the net connection. Like any gateway drug, it wasn't long before Ebay led me to other online shopping sites and my agoraphobia became so much easier to contend with when I realised I could still shop without panicking in crowds and save money on my groceries to boot!
But the big turning point was when a now ex-friend introduced me to the feminist leaning pop culture site Jezebel. This was the first time I'd ever used the internet to interact with other people and since I was intensely lonely and experiencing some of the most intense stress of my life, I embraced it like the proverbial drowning man with a lifebelt. In those days, Jezebel was sharp, snarky and smart and the editors and commenters were both held to that standard. I had shied away from the formal title of feminist after my debacle of cliche and squabbling at the Marxist second wave leaning Women Against Rape, but suddenly I was confronted on a daily basis with a smorsgasbord of feminist thinking and a dazzling selection of witty women who were proud to call themselves feminists.
I created an online identity and got involved, reading and commenting daily and revelling in having something to stimulate my brain again without being too overwhelming. Depression destroys my ability to concentrate so the bite sized style of the internet suited fine. I also began to recognise others online and as I mentioned before, I met up with some of these London based commenters a few years ago. It was a turning point in my life where I put myself out there again and I was rewarded by meeting some of the most fantastic people I've ever spent time with.
I was amazed by how different these people were to my previous friends. While they liked a wee Pimms, they didn't spend every night in the pub and every day nursing a hangover. They had interests and hobbies and real careers based on skills rather than lurching from one poorly paid temp job to another to earn beer money. They read widely and could converse about anything. I felt shamefully unknowledgable in comparison so I took to simply using the internet to expose me to the things they mentioned and like Joey Tribbiani when the encyclopaedia salesman came to call, absorbed all the knowledge I could. My brain started wake up and work again from the stimulation and that's when I decided to start this blog (that and the fact everyone else had one and I felt left out!)
Suddenly I had the opportunity to speak out without being minimised like I had for the past few years. I could express thoughts and opinions into the ether in a more modern version of the old message in a bottle, not really bothered if they ever reached a readership. I began to aim these posts in the direction of some of the people I knew by using Facebook and this helped me develop a belief that what I had to say was actually worthwhile. My confidence also began to increase as I wrote more and realised that a bit like riding a bike, you never forgot how to structure what's essentially an essay.
Then at the start of last year, I started to realise a lot of my friends were conversing on Twitter and that I was missing out on this. I signed up, not knowing what the hell it was all about and quickly found myself sucked in the joys of microblogging. Within no time I was passing the time chatting with friends, keeping up to date minute to minute with current events and being pointed in the direction of the choicest articles and stories to read online. These came from newspapers, magazines and blogs and my interest in life and curiosity in learning continued to come back steadily.
I also set up a second blog around then with my brother to write about food and began to turn Twitter into a useful tool rather than just an (albeit interesting) but almighty timesuck. Suddenly everything on the net seemed connected and useful and I began to use it for both blogs, feeling now that I liked having an audience. But keen not to bore those around me, I also aimed a lot of things I wanted to say at the world of newspaper commenting, alternating between giving my experiences on subjects people like to mouth off about to clear up a few myths and getting a kick out of winding up Daily Mail readers by leaving comments that expose my single childless benefit claiming ways.
While some might see this as the online equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall, it's been enormously rewarding for me. I was asked to write for the Guardian earlier this year, debate with Naomi Wolf, have an enormous photo of me splashed across in the Independent due to being interviewed about internet commenting and offered a volunteering job at Shelter this year alone. It's also been an amazing year to network in a way that allows me to recover from my mental health problems at my own pace and meet some great people.
Now it seems as if nearly all the people in my life come with an internet connection. Most likely I met them that way or even those who go back to childhood have a almost daily input in my life due to the power of social media or email. Being able to have 140 character chats with people or read their blogs allows me to have that close friendship feeling of knowing the minutiae of other people's lives while living alone or hundreds of miles from them. For me, this outweighs the bad of YouTube or Yahoo commenters or sinfully dull Facebook updates or the fact that online dating is a disaster for me that has ceased to even produce humourous anecdotes anymore...
Here's to many more hours online with you all. Where's the like button?
Posted by gherkingirl at 16:41