December 2, 2009

this web is my web

Posted in blogging, DIYDesign, internets, nostalgia, technology, work, writing at 11:37 pm by riseyp

So I got a new job today. More precisely, I got to go permanent after contracting for 14 months at a place where time has flown by in the best possible way. In the official announcement this afternoon, my new manager mentioned that I came to them with 15 years of experience working on the web. All very surreal as I mused on a) how long 15 years is and b) what a different direction my career — my whole life — would have taken, had I not been ‘desperate’ enough to turn to the Internet as a source of friends in a new town.

Looking back on my digital life, it occurred to me tonight that some of the first things I ever posted online were poems. Poems of lust and loss that poured out of me as fast as I could post them, not things I’d already written longhand or kept stored on floppy disk. (Because of course that was your average “high-tech” person’s backup solution in 1994. Tee hee.) But yeah, back to the poems. That unexpected, easy willingness to expose myself online rather surprised me.

Then again, when you consider the explosion of websites and apps such as…

  • my yahoo
  • blogger
  • myspace
  • flickr
  • etsy
  • blurb
  • twitter

…one of the Internet’s most enduring qualities is its revolutionary broadening of the means, and the potential reach, of self-expression. Of artistry. Of feeling. You know, those things we used to keep locked up inside, while making our living doing the more mundane things the world was willing to pay us for. And someday, maybe if we were really lucky, and tried really hard, we’d ‘get published’ and, at long last, achieve immortality. But now? Au contraire! I literally spend a part of every day sharing something about myself or taking a headlong dive into someone else’s life. And it all happens online, of course.

See, the corner of the web I like best is the one where we all have a voice (and call ourselves ‘writers’, ‘photographers’, ‘artists’, ‘comedians’ or ‘collectors’) as we show off to — and riff off of — one another. It’s funny to think that the celebrities I follow are no longer the ones splashed on billboards and magazines; these days, they’re the ones who craft the funniest/most poignant blog posts, crochet the twee-est baby quilts, take endless photos of men with impossibly ornate mustaches, and so on… *They* are the ‘cool kids’ now :)

Just this morning, however, I felt an uncomfortable mixture of disdain and desire creep into the shower with me, as I reflected on the new ‘celebrities’ I follow who sell ad space and hold giveaway contests on their blogs. Such a strange thing to do, I thought. Shouldn’t that be considered kind of… I don’t know… uncouth? Like having a corporate sponsor for your wedding? (“And now it’s time the happy couple’s first dance! Brought to you by Kitchy-Brand pressure cookers!”) But as the day progressed and I continued to chew on it, I had to retract my opinion as disingenuous. Making money off ads on your personal website? And how is that different than writing advertising copy for a living? Because you can hide behind the anonymity of the latter? So: better just to be out in the open about it?

Hmph. Sometimes I hate ambiguity :) They say that women are unhappier than ever these days. They say it may be because we just *care* more. Enough to think twice (or three times or ten) about whether something we thought or did or said was the right thing. It’s all very very complicated, but a big chunk of what gets churned out online represents the space in which we’re hashing these things out, together.

Anyway, this has been my web. (Brought to you by our sponsor, Al Gore ;) It’s messy and it’s weird and it can be ugly at times but, on the whole, it’s still beautiful.

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