Thursday, January 23, 2003

How often do you think about your first time on t'internet, and what life was like before it? Mine was in 1995 I think. The web had fewer pictures and a lot less advertising then. Spam hadn't really started yet. I remember being very excited about the idea of community, subscribing to lots of bulletin boards, and finding the usenet phenomenon to be absolutely fascinating. The first time I ever saw the web was when my friend, a computer science PhD student, showed me a gallery of photos from soc.motts (members of the same sex). I couldn't believe that actual gay people would post up their photos and email addresses for anyone to see (how things have come on since then - you can't open your email account now without free p*rn spam - or someone sending you a picture of their cock). I actually emailed one of those guys - an American wearing a white vest that showed off his big muscles. My first internet crush. It was odd contacting someone out of the blue, someone who looked like a model, who I'd never meet or get a chance to talk to otherwise. Ironically, he never replied. I also used email to get in touch with a student who I fancied and knew was gay. I never would have had the courage to talk to him directly - we exchanged a couple of flirty messages, but then he moved to another city and I never heard from him again.

So, like many other people, my fascination with the web began as something that was vaguely sexual, albeit in a rather innocent way. I sent emails to a smaller set of people, that were much longer than they used to be. I used to take much longer to write emails, playing round with the wording before clicking "Send" for ages. Email used to upset me a lot more as well - I remember several times reading something that made my face burn with anger. That doesn't happen much any more - I don't think I'm more desensitised to flames, I'm just better at avoiding situations where they might happen to me. And now the emails that I receive and send are much shorter - to the point where people have complained that I come across as rather abrupt on email. Ironically, the student who I fancied years ago, emailed me out of the blue last week, after seeing a copy of a book I've written in a shop. That's the other thing about email - you can never really escape your past. Somewhere out there, archived forever, are hundreds of emails that I wrote over five years ago to various stupid newsgroups, about subjects that I am no longer interested in. The email address is long dead, as are the close friendships that I forged with dozens of people over that period. But the evidence that it all happened is still there if anyone cares to look. I don't think I like that. It's such a silly form of immortality.

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