A lot of stuff has happened lately in life lately, and is has made me think about things, and about my perspective on it. One of those things, is the internet.
As some of you know, I'm a huge nerd. While as kid, I didn't had a computer at home, and I hated those damn machines because I wasn't able to work with them at all (so much fail T__T), I soon caught up when I got my first computer at age 14. And while most of my family expected me to end up as a hopeless internet addict, I soon started to learn myself how to program. The rest is history. With my 26th birthday, I also celebrated being a webprogrammer for 10 years already. Oh yeah, I'm getting old for sure.
The recent chain of events have caused me to think about the internet and it's role in life, however. When I first started out with art, I was only a little girl. Me, and both of my younger sisters, were all very creative. And we spend almost all of our time drawing at the kitchen table, while discussing about the characters we just thought up. And no matter how messed up things became in life, we always kept drawing and talking and thinking up characters. It was that thing that kept us together. Or at least... while we were still young. As we got older, our interests grew further apart. Our lives started taking separate directions. Some of us started to study. Some got discouraged by classmates (that could draw much better). And from the three of us, I was the only one still doing art. All alone.
When we got cable internet, I was excited. I wanted to meet people with similar interests; other artists. I hoped that by doing so, I would get back that feeling, of 'belonging somewhere'. I spend the first few years of my internet life mostly on the Dutch forums, since I wasn't that good at English (and I wasn't confident about it either). I uploaded my art and story's there. I got many people to watch me, and even got popular. And that's when I first saw the other side of the internet. The social effect. Up until then, I had been doing art alone. I was a very shy kid. Too afraid to talk to other people, let alone showing my art to them. I think most people in real life wouldn't even know I was making art, back then, since I never talked about it. I was too afraid they would ridicule me for it. I was the kind of girl that went entirely unnoticed. Seriously. Up until now, I sometimes wonder if people from high school would remember me at all. I was invisible. Like a ghost. The school pictures were probably the only proof that I was ever there.
Whereas I went unnoticed in real life, I became massively popular on those Dutch forums. The fiction I posted (the Dutch version of project Fawo
) had many followers. Many people liked my art. And as I became more of an expert in computers and programming, I helped out many people with their problems, and made a lot of friends that way. In just a short time, I gained quite the internet fame, and I really liked it. Because the internet became a place where I wasn't judged by my shy appearance, but by the knowledge I possessed. But as much of an awesome trip as it was, I soon came to an end. Being 'famous' on the internet means that a lot of people form an opinion on you, and a lot of people start hating you for no reason at all. I mean... it's the internet! What's the internet without at least a bit of drama?
I don't know exactly how it started. I mean, how does internet hate generally start? This still wonders me. Seriously.
Mostly it's a person saying something that's interpreted in a wrong way, and then send viral on the internet, to gain massive hate. I assume this is because there are a lot of angry people on the internet, that can't stand another person getting attention they think they 'deserve'. Either that, or they just unleash their real life frustration on a person on the internet -- strengthened by the idea of being anonymous.
Anyhow. It all started with me, helping a guy whose forum was hacked to patch up a security hole in his software. He even thanked me for helping. But the next time I went online, I was labeled as being 'the hacker', my email inbox was spammed with over 500 hate mails and two of my accounts hacked (the guy provided them with my forum password -- which was saved encrypted back then). Oh joy ~__~
Right now, I can laugh about it. People being so damn silly about a bit of internet stuff. But back then, I was a lot younger, and devastated about the cause of events. I wasn't crying back then, but I certainly was close to it. And it made me think. About what I was doing. About that so called 'internet fame', and about what I should do.
My first idea was to pull out my LAN cable and spend the rest of my life without internet (yes, I was being a teenager and very dramatic). But I eventually went kinda undercover for a while. I disappeared from the Dutch forum scene, changed nicknames. And as strange as it seemed, it somehow felt fair to me. I mean... who was I to think that I could be popular on the internet? I couldn't even manage to be visible in real life.
I went like that like that for a while. A few years, I must say. It's not that I wasn't on the internet anymore. I just focused on working in the web industry, and stayed away from the forums. I wouldn't like to unleash more hate on myself, and I liked not caring about my 'image' on the internet. Because, if people know you, you should always watch what you say. Make one mistake, even a lousy grumpy comment, and you'll release the fury of the entire internet on yourself. That's the way it works.
Anyhow. I eventually moved on from that stage. As I got a fulltime job in websites, I soon sought something else to do in my free time. Art. I made an account on DeviantArt to connect with other artists. All in the hope to regain that feeling I had back in the old days. To be 'friends' with other artists. To talk about our art projects, follow livestreams, learn about art and whatnot. But as I started to post more stuff, it soon went out of control. Again. The whole internet-fame-thing. The whole popularity
. The whole massive hate
All of them. Again.
I guess I never really learned.
Nowadays I work with the internet all day. I spend time at internet advertising company's. I learned about internet marketing and about how human psychology works. And as some kind of experiment (just to see if it really works that way) I started using those techniques on my own account -- yes, I'm naturally curious. I can honestly tell that experiment is a huge success. But I doubt whether I can handle it. As my popularity grew, I gained more and more respect for people like yuumei
that belong to the most popular artists out here. The 10.000 watchers thing
felt really awesome. I mean, I could still hear myself think "I will never ever get so many followers" when I started out here. But it feels suffocating at the same time. Because every move you make is tracked. Because a lot of people form an opinion about your art, or even worse, about your personality. And because people see you as an example, and you feel like you have to act that way.
I spend the last 2 weeks mostly away from DeviantArt. Or at least, not posting art/journals or replying to messages (with a few exceptions, of course). And I must admit, I've calmed down a bit. The few writing sessions I had, cleared my mind a bit. I enjoyed my return to the Emion world and the writing about characters without thinking "what would people think about him/her?". I enjoyed scribbling a bit, without feeling the pressure of having to make something really good. I enjoyed reading the many art magazines I still have laying around without having to think "I must remember this, so I can do this right the next time. Otherwise people will critique me for it."
I guess that the most important part from dealing with internet popularity is not caring about what people say at all. But for me, it's not just a button I can press. I used to get inspired by the people that were around me, whether creative or not. The way they did things in their life, or voiced their thoughts, inspired me to create worlds and characters. Like a wise person once said: "Every person that you meet knows something you don't; learn from them". Many people have interesting story's to tell. Having this as a large inspiration, makes is hardly impossible for me to just 'switch it off'. Because it's simply not part of my nature, to not care.
I do care. And I think part of that that, makes me who I am.