Guest Blogger Erica Watson: Why I’m Not Ashamed to Love the Internet

I’ve enjoyed this opportunity to blog again (and you’re not
done with me yet, since March has a fifth Wednesday and I have a minor injury
that will keep me sedentary for a little while, so I agreed to take it on). Thank
you to 49 Writers for the change to get into blogging again, which has inspired
some reflection on my own relationship with the medium.
In junior high, before the internet was something most
people knew or thought much about, I’d make one of my best friends sit and
listen to me read from my journal. We’d already covered most of the documented
territory in more conversational form, but I wanted her to hear the written
version: raw, unedited, crowded with the run-ons and long parentheticals that
still plague me. This was not an exchange of any kind; she didn’t, nor did she
wish to read me her murkily constructed secrets. Sometimes she groaned. Often
she made excuses to go home earlier than what I knew was her family’s dinner
time. This was very much something I did to
her (and may have had something to do with the eventual strain in our
friendship.) My journal was not interesting. There were boys and questions
about God and extraterrestrial life (often conflated), and I had nothing of
what I might now call “voice” that was not directly borrowed from Anne Frank or
Anais Nin (how does a pubescent American know what a diary should sound like?),
but I was determined to have an audience, and she resented being cast in that
The advent of blogging made an audience more attainable
through means other than coercion. I’m simultaneously proud and embarrassed to
say I was blogging before “blogging” was a word; they were called “online
journals,” I was fifteen, and my first was hosted by and read by
three or four college-aged strangers who gave me great validation by linking me
back on their own sites: social media circa 1998. I inserted myself into their
community of writers deliberately and as forcefully as a teenager with limited
HTML skills could. And I succeeded. For a time, we linked and referenced each
other’s posts about mundane and mildly humorous topics: awkward moments on
either end of customer service. Family interactions. Animal poop. I tried to
veer away from any topics that would overtly reference high school. The
anonymity was freeing; I was sillier, more crass, less angry on the young
internet than I was in daily life.
That was the first of several online journals I had on host
sites that are now defunct (edit: is still out there, and people
are still using it; apologies if you are one of them). During college, I
settled into a blog that, though it’s been imported from blogger to wordpress,
is still alive and kicking, though I’ve stopped writing in it much, due to the shift
to Facebook, taking myself somewhat more seriously as a writer, and a few
incidents involving misunderstandings with the federal government. As I slowly
transition that site from traditional blog to something resembling a
professional website (and if you’ve followed the link from here, you’ve seen
that it’s a work in progress), it’s been interesting to see how the purpose and
the audience has shifted over the years. For me, the opportunity to write for
and be accountable to an audience, even if for years the audience was only
three friends, my mom, and some lurking government officials (though these
categories are not mutually exclusive), was invaluable in removing some of the fear
and mystery of sharing less-than-perfect work.
I read something recently suggesting that social media has
turned its users into cyborgs, who physically wake up and tend to our digital
selves before our own physical needs. This is obviously a creepy prospect. But
I can’t deny my own warm and fuzzy associations with its creative potential.
It’s intriguing to recognize the nostalgia I feel for
something like an outdated website—something that isn’t a real person, place,
or thing, yet made a certain sort of expression possible. For all the negatives
about technology, I have mostly fond memories of being in places of relative
geographical or emotional isolation and sharing or connecting with others
through these media. Angelfire, I’ll always be grateful for you.
Anyone else have aspects of social media autobiography to

Erica Watson is an essayist living on the boundary of Denali National Park. She completed her MFA in nonfiction at UAA in 2014. Her work has appeared most recently in PilgrimageThe Fiction Advocate, and Denali National Park’s Climate Change Anthology, and she is a recipient of a fellowship to Fishtrap’s summer 2016 program. She will eventually update her website at
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