We asked some excellent, honest writers to pen letters to their former internet selves. Imagine if one of these had landed in your Hotmail account.
To my Former Internet Self,
Stop correcting people’s grammar. You may think it makes you seem educated and refined but it doesn’t, it just makes you look like a dick. Besides, you may be educated but you’re not refined, and you know it. Stop pretending.
Don’t be flattered by the compliments of men on MySpace. Just because he’s congratulating your wit and intellect – how apparently ~mature~ you are – instead of your tits doesn’t mean he’s not a creep. Don’t reply to his messages. Don’t lie to your parents about where you’re really going. Don’t meet him in real life. Don’t let a relationship form. He will say and do things that will crush your spirit and make you wilt, so that in years to come, when you write a letter to your former self, you won’t know where to send it, because you’ll have no idea where that strong, confident young woman went.
But at least she stopped correcting people’s grammar.
To my Former Internet Self,
Get off the Orlando Bloom fansites. Now. Don’t argue. Especially stay off the one that is your homepage. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! One day you will realise that while Mr Bloom does have nice features, he does nothing that resembles acting with said features in any of his movies. That’s why he is now known as Miranda Kerr’s ex-husband.
Stop reading fan fiction. Yes I know it’s not fair that you have to wait years for the next Harry Potter book and wouldn’t it be awesome if he really did hook up with Hermione but you are wasting your life.
Speaking of wasting your life, MSN Messenger is just first of many ways the internet will make you feel like you need to be online all the time or you will miss some very important gossip that can’t wait for school the next day. Don’t start arguments or conversations about anything important on MSN. Remember that people can and do copy and paste stuff and it can live on forever. Also, saying “Sorry wrong convo” after asking a boy “will you go out with me?” is not original and no one believes it.
Current Internet Self.
Subject: MSN Messenger usage
Sam. Go to bed.
Someday you’ll understand the importance of sleep. Despite your desire to stay up past midnight on MSN Messenger chatting to friends you see all week at school, sleep is more important. By the time you realise that though, the internet will have produced new ways to keep you awake that are even more addictive and superficial.
It is actually ridiculous how easy getting online is now. I literally go to bed with the internet in my hand (on a device in my hand – we’re not that advanced … yet), so have had to implement a program I call ‘Operation Sovereign Bed’. Sorry, you won’t understand that reference – there’s no point Yahooing or Asking Jeeves, just cherish a time when it has no context. So yeah, I’m a hypocrite, but that just means I have the experience to give you advice.
Hat’s off though, no way I could be bothered with the trouble you’ve gone to get on Messenger: sneaking cautiously in and out of Mum and Dad’s bedroom, avoiding creaks in the floor like landmines just to plug in the damn cord; then smothering the modem with blankets or clothing to muffle its piercing cries through the house. You know if they catch you they’ll assume you’re viewing something more salacious. Then they’ll restrict access, and then you won’t be able to.
In 2014 you’d probably be diagnosed with ‘severe FOMO’. It’s totally treatable: you just have to find something worthwhile to do. Not such an easy task I suppose when you’re 16, living in Doncaster and quietly struggling with anxiety. Meanwhile, chatting to friends seems to be one of few things that you gives you a good distraction.
So you know what, forget it. Sleep might be better for you, but stay up. You put in a lot of effort to log on. Chat until everyone else has logged off. Chat about the band you guys are in as if you’ll actually play someday. Talk about girls as if you’re prepared to talk to them. Talk about moving out when school finishes like it’s realistic. Laugh aloud at all the fantastic silliness – but please, give up pushing ‘LLOL’ (Literal Laugh Out Loud) as a thing.
As the internet changes, the number of people you interact with will increase stupidly and the depth of interaction will, for the most part, miniaturise. Those late-night Messenger chats are actually some of the best and most memorable online conversations you’ll ever have.
Dear Past Michelle,
I know you’re going through a lot of heartache right now. I’m so sorry that this has had to happen to you, and you feel like your life is falling apart.
But writing about it through fictional characters in a blog probably isn’t the best way to express yourself.
It feels really cool at the moment, and you’ve got heaps of “hits” from your friends. But one day you will forget the password to that blog and you won’t be able to delete it. And it’ll just be out there in the ether, for everyone to see.
Every character you’ve created – all the emo boys, all the girls that cry in public, even that quiet kid who may or may not have a major part in upcoming chapters – they’ll all be on display.
By all means, write. It’s fun, and you haven’t yet discovered the back-and-forth between editors and writers so you’re free to do as you please. But just keep in mind, if you ever want to be famous (and, erm, I’m not from far enough into the future to tell you if you will), keep that password in a safe place. Or just remember it better.
All the best,
Look, I’m going to be brutally honest – I think it’s time somebody told you. You probably know know it deep down but don’t want to admit it to yourself. Okay, okay, okay, I’m just going to say it. Nobody reads your blog.
I’m sorry, I know that it is hard for you to hear. All of those hours spent hunched above your laptop, trawling Wiki How with your inane formatting questions, the meticulous detail you put into the ‘About Me’ section, carefully curating your ‘Favourite Reads’ down to the last Penguin Classic and Jack Kerouac quote. Certainly, your blog smacks of edgy cultural and aesthetic sensibilities – but let’s be honest, you’ve had fifteen hits in the past week and they’ve all been from you.
I know it may seem like that musty skirt you thrifted from Vinnies last week is the height of shabby-chic, and you’re sure that the crowns you so lovingly crafted from Go-Lo fake flowers will receive the viral reposts that they deserve, but I have to be frank. Five years down the track you’ll be praying to the Internet Gods that every last one of your mortifying blog entries gets swallowed up into the fibre-optic ether, never to return. Really, the sooner you stop the better. I’m begging you now: please step away from the self-timer.
You know, it’s pretty obvious what’s up. School’s been shitty and you’ve got it in your head that you’re frumpy and uncool, right? Somehow you think that projecting the person you want to be online will make it real. You’ve gone to such lengths to cultivate this persona, from your decked out Myspace page, to the (serious) daily dilemma of who should receive your Bebo Love. ‘Appearing Offline’ on MSN might seem like a coy strategy to you now, but let me assure you, Jonathan Davis doesn’t even know you exist. Move on.
Have you ever thought that the energy you spend showcasing your ‘life’ could be better spent? Like by actually living perhaps? Why don’t you have a crack at finishing the the books you cite on your ‘must read’ list, or actually travel to some of the places in the photos you reblog? The Kerouac quote you’ve got right there says it all. You gotta be one of “the ones who are mad to live… the fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” You don’t wanna be stuck behind a screen.
I know how this looks. Dick hanging out of your pants, you’ve got one hand on the desk in front of you to steady yourself. What if Susannah Wilcox could see you now, with your willy spilling all over your thighs and that clammy shake in your wrist. Shit, you’re sweating. This isn’t Play School any more, though, is it? You’ve got primal instincts now. Don’t you know you can see that blue glow from the bathroom hallway? Also turn those speakers down, nobody wants to hear you jerk off like you’re getting your teeth out at the dentist.
Look at you. You don’t even know what that pixellated thing is called, or that girls even had one of those. There’s a reason they don’t show you this stuff in Health class. You need to slow down or your parents will ask you again why downloads have shot up on the bill this month. There’s only so many e-books you could conceivably download. Thing is, I know you’ve been here every night this week. You wait until your parents are asleep before you skitter down the hall to the bathroom and hastily wrap a handful of T.P. around your fingers like some kind of sick, porn bandage before retreating to your den and a private session on Safari.
You can see it on your face (and in your pants) every time Susannah Wilcox walks up to her locker and stands just tall enough that you can spy the pink lace of her knickers from under her school uniform. You’re an incurable pervert and you know it. Shit, you even slipped one in before school on Thursday.
I know what you’re thinking. You can’t suppress it, and firing up those porn sites is the only way you know how to deal with it. For god’s sake though, just remember to take a deep breath, clear your browsing history, wipe down the mouse, and maybe you’ll make it through puberty without your parents walking in.