01. The Antisocial Social Net

A brief history of my inter webs

A digital illustration of a black and white globe radiating waves in a white space. This is one of the pictures that appear on MorgueFile when you look for “Internet”. Image: Prawny.

In the beginning, the Internet was made of cats. It was also made of dogs, badgers, snakes, llamas, ducks and unicorns. There were not-so-nice things around too, of course, but those were hard to find and, certainly, your auntie wouldn’t share them on your timeline.

My first email address was cynthiamty99. We had just got dial-up broadband at my childhood home in Monterrey, Mexico; and I opened the account on the 1st of January, 1999. Age 12, a few months short from 13. Soon, I started going on Bolt, an online magazine/forum for and by teenagers, where I made my first Internet friends. One of them, Pato, was from my hometown. We’re still friends to this day and we try to hang out every time I go back to visit.

Then came BBS boards. Mostly alternative music oriented. The BSH (Placebo) and The Comatorium (The Mars Volta). I think I was also briefly in some unofficial Radiohead and Muse ones. Again, I developed enduring friendships with people around the forld. One of them was the first person to pre-order my book - going all the way to Spain! Another person, became my boyfriend and now is my husband. He’s one of the reasons I’m in England. More on this, another time.

For a hot second, I was on Fotolog and got to know about things going on in Monterrey. I started hanging out with other teens and going to gigs, some fo them a few roads away from Abuelita Panchita’s house. I would lose track of time at the park I used to visit as a kid, now as a hipster teenager with hipster friends. Then, I went into uni. Met people, in person, first, for the first time.

Web 1.0 was a way to meet people on the Internet I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Web 2.0 became a way to connect with people in in person I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Uni peers, gig goers, colleagues from writing circles and citizen journalist platforms. We’d stay in touch on MySpace, discover new music. There I found Penny Andrews and saw that spoken poetry was a thing, often combined with music. This seed stayed planted in me for a while and took a decade to sprout.

Facebook was more utilitarian, a landline with extra steps, to stay connected with strangers who became friends and friends who became strangers. Then twitter, with colleagues and minds alike and disimilar. Later, with all of these links made, Instagram. Seeing rebel friends blossom into parenthood, careers, animal companionship, becoming absolute hotties. Ad breaks, ad breaks, ad breaks. Coconut hair products, a hammock, drain plungers, ads, ads, extremists, bad memes, some good ones, a lot of noise.

I miss the days of BBS and MIRC, the websites in Geocities, Angelfire. I miss mailing lists, so here we are.

A disgruntled topless person with a ginger beard, wearing headphones and a keyboard as a hat, cables coming out of their mouth. This is another picture that appears on MorgueFile when you look for “Internet”, and it is a mood. Credit: Dmitry Khrustalev.

I just watched The Social Dilemma. I could say a lot of things about it, but I’ll let you read their words instead. Go ahead.

I just want Big Tech to disappear, or at least its darkest sides. I want people to come to life from genocide, war, disordered perceptions of the self, this virus. Don’t drink the bleach. Get all your shots. The Earth is round. The Moon is full. I want the algorithm to stop telling people this is all fake news. I want them to know that, perhaps, the key to saving the children is not to trust one of the most powerful serial abusers on Earth.

The most I can do right now is go back to the basics. I am limiting my use of social media. Can’t delete my professional accounts yet because I am just getting somewhere with this writing malarkey and I fear that if I disappear from your sight on the usual networks, I will become obsolete and forgotten before even jetting off. So I will keep scheduling things from the computer. Look at the people that matter a few minutes per day. Notifications: off from my smartphone.

Ideally, I’d downgrade to a good ol’ Nokia clam and give you pre-Carnival Gaffe Adele vintage melodrama, but I still need to take pictures and listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I might miss a lot of things from Web 1.0, but I certainly don’t miss having to carry around a digital camera, an MP3 player, a brick phone, a selection of books as thick as my cat’s bum, and a second-hand Palm I never really got into. Just let me carry on with my All-in-One Galaxy S9, bullet journal, writing notebook and stringbag full of markers, thank you very much.

So this is why I’ve started a mailing list. Simpler, rawer, easier to go back to, feels more like a letter. Like I’m your penpal. And no bloody one-minute infomercials, no auntie sharing trash about chemtrails, no incels screaming about pronouns. Just words, links and pictures selected for the occasion.

To those who are already here, welcome.
To those yet to come, see you then.

Logging off but never offline,
Cynthia

PS: Did I tell you I have a book coming up? It’s called Meanwhile, and it’s my debut poetry collection. It comes out next week on Burning Eye Books, and you should preorder it like my Spanish friend a few paragraphs above. A few copies have already been ordered from within the UK and as far as the USofA. Join the club. Mr Worldwide!