On day eight, a love letter to the internet.
I remember looking at morning glories as a kid (the flower, not the other thing you sick people). Their amazing purple flowers, with a darker twist down the middle of each petal.
I also remember being very confused when my mom told me they were weeds. I asked the eternal child’s question — why? To be fair, she probably did give me a good answer but all I really came a way with was a sense of frustration. Why a weed, and not a flower?
This general outlook on life made me a book-worm. Our local public library in Parkview was one of my favourite places. Having to pick three books to take home, once a week? Honestly, I don’t think I have anything in my current life that feels so precious, so deliberate. Having what felt like the world, right there in that dusty old library, and only being able to take home a minuscule fraction at a time.
I ploughed through Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps, Horrible Histories, Point Horror, anything by Jacqueline Wilson. I was getting answers, indirectly, about what it meant to be a young person in the world. School and boys and parents. Maybe not the horror ones so much, but the central love story was always amazing and tainted by the possibility of some kind of grisly horrible death. I levelled up to Anne Rice novels at around 15 and basically formed some really weird initial ideas about what was erotic. More on that at another time.
By this time, Google was becoming a more useful browser as the internet exploded in volume, with decent information about our own world in South Africa, not only the West, becoming available. Now, if my dad made some infuriating comment that I was certain wasn’t correct, I could Google it.
My friends have made fun of my obsession with Googling everything the moment uncertainty arises. But having so much information at the click of a search button was probably the best thing that ever happened my young, hungry mind.
Myspace was the first social networking platform I was on. The deliberation that went into maintaining the page — oh boy. Only the socially-obsessive mind of a sixteen year old girl could spend so much time finding the perfect wallpaper, the song that most described how incredibly cool I was as it began to autoplay when you landed on the page. I had some memes like “Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them”. My url was “concretejunglebunny”. So. Painfully. Cool. Shout out to Rachel who then taught me how to arranged your Top Ten friends as a beautiful passive-aggressive way to show who was in your good books that week.
The point is, I really think the internet came along at the perfect time in my life. I had the childhood of libraries and scarcity, which to this day makes me see books as close to holy objects. Beautiful, durable, incredible objects of paper and ink that carry worlds and ideas and freedom. They can be dropped in the bath and forgotten for years but still work. They can be shared and translated. Truly, amazing.
But I’m also glad I got to live in a world where I could get answers, explore, by myself. To live in a world where I message friends from all over the planet instantaneously. Where anyone lucky enough to have access to a computer and a decent internet connection can change their fate through education and information.
And I’m really, really grateful that Facebook only came around after I had gone through the most excruciating parts of adolescence. There is still some really embarrassing stuff out there, no doubt, but at least the worst of it is confined to painful diaries and notebooks of shitty poetry, locked up nicely in the nuclear bunker that you can never ever access under the White House.
PS. If you’re wondering about the answer to morning glory question, you can google it.