How The Internet As A Kid Shaped My Career Today

This blog post started out as most of my okay yes I need to write about this blog posts do - chatting away with Keiran over a decidedly menial task (I think we were tidying up the bed before getting in it - doesn’t make much sense, but I know some of you will do it too), digging out old nuggets of information and threads of interest that otherwise would have been forgotten.

Somehow we’d gotten onto the subject of children, and I was expressing my apprehension about the possibility that one day, when we hopefully have kids of our own, they might turn out to be real pain-in-the-arse teenagers. I wasn’t a model teen by any stretch of the imagination, but my greatest offences were drinking in the local park and sneaking off to snog boys when my Mum thought I was at my best friends (although she ~ never ~ believed me, so she had me duped the whole time). Keiran was just your stereotypical lazy boy, preferring game videos over effort of any kind, so whilst neither of us was exactly head boy or girl material, we were still fairly alright.

But what if, however many years down the line, young Claude (yep, that names is set in stone, sorry Keir) turns around and brands someone a ‘slag’? What if my possible future daughter (prospectively Maude right now, but I’ve received some serious backlash for the rhyming names so I’m open to changing this one) repeats some racist bigotry that she’s learned from outside the home? How do you properly equip your children with the tools to make the right decisions, to look for the right information or to just be empathetic and compassionate humans?

Living with me, Keiran has to deal with these hypothetical scenarios quite often. I’m a thinker through and through, so whether he’s hunched over the washing up or desperately trying to watch the Man United match without interruption, there’s always a high chance that my head will pop up out of nowhere like a stealthy groundhog, positing: ‘If I died tomorrow, how long do you think it would be before you moved on?’

This time around, however, he was very much in the cosy Sunday mood and so submitted to entertaining me, the product of which came the thought that we’re all very much a product of our environment as kids. Our hobbies, friends and teachers impact us as much as our parents do, and looking back now, I can see how some of those influences have teased out into my larger career.

The biggest element that shaped me? The internet. Hands down and without reservation, I wouldn’t have studied English Lit, let alone been a blogger, if it wasn’t for the hours I spent writing on ProBoards as a kid. I don’t think I would have ever discovered my love for story-telling - or more specifically, for the short story - if it wasn’t for the characters I created or the 1000+ word posts I pulled together after school. And it was all for fun.

Hopefully some of you guys will know what I’m talking about by now, but if not, one of my hobbies as a kid was playing role playing (RP) games online. Now, hold on a second - role playing back then certainly didn’t mean what it does now. Back then, it meant joining a forum board, creating a character (with everything from their age and appearance to their gender and Eastenders-esque story lines) and writing posts in a thread with other users. Sometimes you’d have open threads where anybody could use their character to reply, and sometimes you’d arrange with another user to create a closed thread and let a story play out between the two of you. You’d write out an action or some speech from the perspective of your character, and then they’d reply with theirs. But it was more than size 18 text with glittery speech marks - it was quite sophisticated. Generally you’d write around 500-1000+ words per post, and you incorporate everything from your character’s actions to their emotions and how this moment played into their wider storyline.

It was deep, guys, and I used to love it. I started off playing on some horse boards (you try making a talking horse seem legit - it’s not easy) before moving on to human high-school ones, and I honestly used to dedicate hours and hours of my life to writing and reading with other enthusiasts. I met people from all over the world - some of which I’m still Facebook friends with 10+ years later - and learned how to use Photoshop through creating graphic avatars with v. v. v. deep and meaningful emo lyrics emblazoned across them.

As quirky as it may seem, I don’t like to play down how important those early years of my life were. Without a doubt they shaped the person that I am now, because I spent hours labouring over the written word and expressing stories on a daily basis. I was reading and writing and escaping, no longer the chubby, emo kid from Ipswich, but the pink-haired sassy 'December' from God-knows where in the US (I used to use Audrey Kitching as my character - I lived for that Hanna Beth, Jac Vanek and Zui Suicide drama. Long live the scene queens!).

Even outside of that, the internet was hugely influential on the life I lead now. I used to trade items on Neopets, create screenshot stories on the Sims and almost started a mini business on Horseland (I was really into horses okay, leave me alone), creating graphics in return for in-game currency. Without knowing, engaging in these games online not only equipped me with the tools to do my job now, but also allowed me to be creative, converse with a plethora of different people across the world and discover my passion for story-telling. It helped shape those big life decisions - what I was going to study, what career I was going to pursue - but through the sense of community that these online platforms had, it also made me a more understanding and compassionate person, even if I didn’t realise it at the time.

The internet often gets a bad rap, regarded as isolating or distracting for young minds. It was quite the opposite, for me, however. It opened up my world from a run-of-the-mill, nobody-liked-Panic!-At-The-Disco town, to endless possibilities and the space to create my own story. I explored my passions, made friends, wrote without limits and found a community within which I was unapologetically myself.

And now? I write and create imagery for a living, so thanks internet, you nailed it.

Until next time lovelies x


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