Thursday, July 06, 2006

Memoirs of a BUsha: Ten Years of the URI! Zone

1996 - 1997

I wrote my first homepage on the night of August 30, 1996 at the end of the first week of classes. Being a scholarly freshman concerned about my academics, I was not out partying that night, although my roommate was. I remember this because he stumbled into the dorm room with a girl that was most definitely not his girlfriend (since she was still a senior at his high school) around 2 AM when I was figuring out how online visitors could go to buri.campus.vt.edu to get to my weird page. Surprised to find me quite awake and working on my computer, they quickly did a 180 and departed to have a smoke. I was not totally socially inept or heartless, as I made sure I was asleep when they made their second pass thirty minutes later to prove that lofts are solidly constructed and capable of holding two people at once. Who am I to deny a guy I'd only known for a week the chance to hook up with a Virginia Tech cheerleader?

I listened exclusively to jazz and classical music back then. I did not get into Dave Matthews until the marching band played a halftime show in which we danced to Too Much.

This is me walking down the stairs towards Owens on Band Parents' Day, trying not to look annoyed that my dad was taking pictures every ten paces from AJ to Squires. Note the MEMBERS ONLY jacket from 1990 and the ginormous glasses. In the background, you can see Pritchard, because the New Residence Hall had not yet been built, and that area was reserved for bikini-clad volleyball tournaments.

There was a time when I was more quiet and withdrawn than I am even today. I was more connected to the online crowd in 1996 - 1997 than any year to follow and had very few college friends (or the desire to make any). I had a network of contacts across this country, other countries, and even Canada, most of whom I'd never met and never would meet. This was before knowing people online was cool, and even before knowing people online was dangerous. In these first two years, I knew an unhappy woman from Sydney who wanted to marry an American guy (and eventually ended up on the West Coast in what I can only describe as eerily mail-order-bridish), sent an old Soundblaster soundcard to a friend in Canada who couldn't afford his own, fell hard for a pretty girl in Ontario and learned the hard way about online relationships, knew a girl in Atlanta who was constantly plagued by headaches and said she was into vampirism, lived through that girl's apparent suicide (never confirmed, but she never came back), had to fend off some woman who kept trying to cyber, had a girl from Toronto fall for ME, and helped another girl's mom track her down after she ran away. These people were naive, crazy, normal, young and old. Some were handsome or beautiful while others were just eligible to go to a pimply ho party, but they were all real people with real problems, able to connect through the anonymity of the Internet. Here's an excerpt from an essay I wrote back then which proves that I was the first person to recognize the Myspace Phenomenon, and if I had just gotten the patent I'd be living in a chateau by now:

    In the last episode of "URI! Tells All", I lamented about how today's standard is the suppression of real communication. I think the Net is the last place where such communication still can take place. A friend told me that "The Net is the great equalizer" and it's true. On the Net, people can freely express themselves and trade ideas without many of the restraints set in the real world. I think people have a natural tendency to express themselves, and the Net is a perfect environment for it. Just take a trip around the Net and see how many homepages of the "Hi, I work in a button factory. Here is a picture of my cat." variety you can find. People want to express themselves. It doesn't matter who is listening or how relevant their words are, we all just want to say something, an act that is unthinkable in real life. As well, the friends I've made online are less fake, and talk about their problems more than the people you'll meet face to face. And it's healthy too. Despite the myths that everyone online is looking for cybersex or is an antisocial UNIX guru, there are real people online, but people who aren't online refuse to accept it. I know people who's parents refuse to accept online people as "real people", and parents lament their kids for sitting on the computer all day when they should be out socializing... It is socialization, just in a new and unique form.

I do regret that I kept saying "the Net" like I was in some horrible Sandra Bullock movie. It was hip at the time, I swear.

As my second year of college began, I was disillusioned with online realities, and I resolved to at least make the effort to tear away from the comfort of my online world and make friends with people that didn't bankrupt me through phone calls (Did you know it cost $0.32 a minute to call Canada in 1996? Long Distance charges can eat me). Of course, just as I made that resolution I met a girl still in high school in my home town. Now instead of spending weekends inside hunched over a computer talking to "Kytty" (who eventually DID make it into pharmacy school in Texas), I was spending weekends on the phone or hitching a ride with Roommate Dan back north. So yeah, I don't have many college memories from my first two years of school that actually involved college in some capacity.

Through all the ups and downs, my homepage with its Llama Fanfare soundtrack remained a constant upbeat niche of quirkiness, keeping me in touch with all my high school friends and online friends. It was during those formative years that I decided the URI! Domain would always be a light-hearted place to visit, free of angst and bitterness -- the Internet and life offline had enough of that to go around twice.

To be continued...

Maybe they need a bigger hose
Someone really wants to be Miss Florida
Dinner or Tourism?

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