SOCIAL STUDIES Ghosts of Home Pages Past Nicole Paulhus

I’d like to think of my generation as the pioneers of online social networking. Before there were Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, there were MySpace, Xanga and AOL. Instead of Facebook statuses and tweets, we had away messages, AOL Profiles and chat rooms. It was all very new and our parents didn’t understand any of it, so there weren’t really limitations. I remember going into AOL chat rooms as a middle schooler, entering my a/s/l as 18/f/Orlando (which was the most exotic place I could think of) and diving into conversations that were way beyond my maturity level. Many an hour was spent deciding which Ashlee Simpson lyric to post as my away message and whose initials were worthy of gracing the bottom of my profile under “BFFs”. The whole concept of posting your thoughts and feelings on the internet was brand spanking new and we were the guinea pigs.

I recently had dinner with an aunt I hadn’t seen for years. Between courses, she casually asked if I had written an article about smoking with my father online. I was extremely confused, because that would never happen in my family. When I got home I did some self-Googling to figure out what she was talking about. Somewhere around page 10 of search results I unearthed an old Xanga page. My first thought was, “Did my aunt hire a private investigator to find this?” Second was, “Holy crap there is a journal detailing all of my adolescent thoughts and feelings publicly posted on the internet.” The specific passage to which she was referring was a copy and pasted AIM conversation with my friend Paul. He was proudly telling the tale of his parents discovering illegal substances in his car. I was mystified that I had at one point found this, as well as personal information, phone numbers and addresses, appropriate to post publicly on the internet. It was like discovering an alternate identity, one who had a lot of feelings and no filter.

I proceeded to search and destroy a forgotten MySpace page as well as two other online journals. While I pray that I extinguished all evidence of my online teen existence, I live in constant fear that there are more pages lingering out in cyberspace waiting to come back and haunt me. I vaguely remember making a series of “home pages” with Lisa Frank images and glittery quotes stating things like “Hoes over bros” and “I believe in angels, I call them my best friends.” Does anyone remember these? I pray that whatever once groundbreaking service they were on has since been disbanded. God, I can only hope.

Let this be a lesson to teens of today. We were stupid so that you don’t have to be. Don’t let our humiliating home pages and MySpaces die in vain. Think twice about what you post on the internet and at the very least keep track of your passwords. Someday that rant about how much you hate your mother might not seem so cute. Mine certainly is not.

Later Gater!

(which is apparently how I signed everything in 2002)

Feature image via deviantart.net

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  1. I was in my 20′s when all this stuff came along but I had the foresight to do everything anonymously and watch what I say. Now I’m older and don’t really care what people think but I am glad that the musings of my 25-year-old-thought-I-was-a-wise-learned-woman-self are kept under wraps. Kids now have a case of the growns at age 13 and what they post online is horrifying and completely dumb. Let them learn the hard way like we had to. Not everything has to be spoonfed to kids by virtual mommies and daddies of the world.

  2. I remember the home pages! I think there were some called “AOL Home Pages” or something…we used to post our best friends’ names and our dumb little inside jokes! God forbid one of my friends wasn’t listed on my home page, there would be a goddamn war.

  3. I remembered like last week that I still had a Xanga account. And it was the worst, I wrote really dumb things!

  4. Thankfully I’ve deleted my awkward teen years that only existed through my Myspace. It is gone!! :P but yeah, idk how i would’ve reacted now! UGH! XD

  5. Remember expage? Everyone in my middle school had one. Glittery quotes and cartoon dolls…and a “guest book” where girls would either write things like “lylas” or fight with each other.

  6. Awesome article, definitely can relate! It took me 24 hours to make sure my internet teen history was permanently deleted.

  7. I had a Geocities page and could hand-code HTML. I was AWESOME.

    • I’m so glad somebody brought up Geocities! The fact you could pretty much make your own website back then was so incredibly awesome, but I can’t help and cringe when I think of all the insane tackiness of it.

  8. And before Myspace and Xanga, there was Neopets.

  9. I found my old Livejournal and my old website from my teenage years through the waybackwhen machine. I found it a fascinating yet utterly disconcerting experience. I did eventually, make most of my LJ private, before deleting it, but the idea that anything we create online is being ‘archived’ (and the removal process is really bizarre) is strange.

  10. I love this. I had almost forgotten my AOL profile and xanga… I thought I was so cool.