Beeeep. Dialing. Pshhhkkkrrrkakingkakingkakingchchchchchchch. Ding, ding, ding. The sound of the high pitched dial-up modem rang throughout the nearly-vacant room. I practically jumped out of my seat after hearing the frightening sound. I glanced around the room to make sure that my parents did not come rushing downstairs to investigate the noise. After confirming that the coast was clear, I glanced towards the keyboard and started scoping out the buttons that I needed to push. I placed my hands awkwardly on the oversized letters; they certainly did not conform to the average hands of a six-year old. Typically, I would always ask my parents’ permission to use the internet, but that was mostly due to the fact that I had no idea how to turn the computer on. I was not fond of asking for help though. My mom would always hover over my shoulder to make sure that I wasn’t looking up adult content, whatever that was. I figured she was just paranoid. Unknown to her, I was taking mental notes the last time she helped me. It felt like the Windows 98 computer sprang to life after I loaded the Google webpage. There were so many options for me to choose from. I briefly considered playing Neopets or RuneScape with my lack of parental surveillance, but I quickly shook those options out of my head. A smirk appeared on my face. I had to concentrate; I was supposed to be here with only one goal in mind—to try and befriend my favorite childhood icon, Hilary Duff.
Earlier that week, I had gone over to my friend Jessica’s house to catch up on the latest gossip between Princess Rainbow and Sir Tutti, otherwise known as our Barbie and Ken dolls. My mom would often drop me off at her house whenever she needed someone to “babysit” me. Of course, she never used that exact phrase. Jessica was a few years older than me, and her mother ran a home daycare business. I was surprised when I arrived that day because instead of playing with our most beloved trinkets, my older friend had other plans in mind. She dragged me to her computer and showed me a new website that she was obsessed with. When I looked up at the screen I squinted my eyes at the name of the webpage.
“Xanga,” I said perplexed. “What the heck is a Xanga?” My friend rolled her eyes at my lack of knowledge with her newfound interest. She explained to me that it was a website where you could make friends, chat, and personalize your own blog. Since I was at a mere age of six, I still had no idea what she was talking about; however, there was one intriguing fact that caught my attention. “You’re…friends with Hilary Duff?” I almost squealed at the sight of my favorite actress and singer on Jessica’s list of “friends.” Being a naive child at the time, the possibility that this person was an imposter didn’t even cross my mind. From that point on, I was determined to do whatever necessary to talk to Hilary. I had been granted access to use Jessica’s email to create my own profile, and I began to personalize it immediately. I added critical information, such as the fact that my dog’s name was Luca, and that I had two adorable calico kitties. Since I was one of the sharper crayons in the box, I created a fake identity and went by the name of Princess Rainbow. I was brilliant. By the time I left my friend’s house, I was already planning my evasion around my parents’ overprotective monitoring.
“Let the internet-stalking commence!” I brought my thoughts back to reality and focused on the task at hand. The instant I logged onto my account, I sent another friend request to the teenage celebrity. I couldn’t fathom why she hadn’t accepted the many requests that I had directed towards her. I mean, who wouldn’t want an awesome friend by the name of Princess Rainbow? No one that I knew of, that’s for sure. Rather than dwelling on this fact for too long, I decided to scroll through Hilary’s profile and read all of her most-recent posts. I almost felt like she was one of my closest friends from all of the facts that I learned about her. As the time began to tick by, I realized that I should probably log off and try again tomorrow. The moment I turned off the computer and spun around in the rolling desk chair, I came face-to-face with my suspicious mother. I’m not sure if it was my shocked face, or the fact that I had no idea how long she had been standing there, but I knew one thing for sure, I had to create an elaborate lie, and fast.
“Uh, hi mom! I was just looking for you, could you help me get the computer set-up? I really want to play Neopets!” She raised a single eyebrow and crossed her arms in front of her chest. She knew something was up. My lifeforce was becoming slimmer and slimmer. Out of pure panic, I started rambling on about Neopets, “Today is Queen Sparkle’s birthday, and if I don’t log on then I won’t be able to give her birthday cake, and if I don’t give her birthday cake then she won’t like me anymore, and then—”
“No. You’re grounded.” My shoulders dropped and my head made contact with the desk in defeat. I made a mental note for next time to create an escape route.
Approximately nine years later, I was sitting in my room with my laptop glued to my fingers. My eye twitched in frustration at the information I had just read on Yahoo News. Hilary Duff had just named her firstborn son after my dog, Luca. Coincidence? I think not. She never did accept my friend request all those years ago, but this may have been her action of repentance for crushing a young girl’s dream. Either that, or I’m just overanalyzing the situation.
My first experience with social media began the day the I vowed to befriend my favorite childhood icon. Since then, it has evolved significantly. After Xanga, it was MySpace; after MySpace, it was Facebook, and now, it is Tumblr. All of these experiences have molded my digital literacy skills to excellency. An individual can learn a lot more from eating a bag of Cheetos and scrolling through someone’s blog, rather than flipping through the pages of a textbook.