My first social media experience happened with my 6th grade introduction to AIM. My screen names were so ahead of the times! There’s no doubt that my super fast typing skills developed over late night group chat sessions with all my middle school friends, typing fast while also using alternating capital and lower case letters for style. Using names like “LiToLePrAkHaN” and “SsHoMeSlIcEsS” was my m.o. and it soon led me to get into web design–although I didn’t know it at the time. What prompted me to get so invested in a personal site at that age? I’m not so sure, but my first site http://www.shupz.cjb.net was really a feat to behold. I took it down around hight school because it just wasn’t the cool thing to do anymore. I either outgrew my interest or became a slave to what I thought was the cooler thing to do. I think the latter is true.
I reached some point in my adolescence where I was embarrassed by my nerdy history of making sites and learning to code. I wish I remembered how to get it back. I’d give anything to reminisce about the hilarious history of middle school, my site’s “shout-outs,” the “trademarks” page and the funky layouts borrowed from the endless Expage forums. I don’t know why I was embarrassed. Website building and coding late at night while snacking and typing lightening speed messages on AIM suddenly didn’t fit in with the party girl persona I tried to cultivate, in fact is really cramped my style altogether.
I wish I felt more encouraged to follow that passion and listen to the inner drive I felt to create things using this tech format I’ve always felt so comfortable with. I jokingly say I could’ve created Facebook had I stuck with it and maybe took steps to learn more advanced skills in the arena. For whatever reason that just wasn’t my path. I am grateful to feel a return full-circle to that time when I didn’t care so much about what others thought and just followed my instinct to create. Putting content out there without a brand or company backing me is a new feeling, but for now I’m just going with it. And for now it feels like the right thing, so I’m listening up.
Are there others who had an early introduction to coding or website design but didn’t pursue it because it doesn’t seem cool enough? Luckily I think that paradigm is shifting to one in which coding and creating and having your own start-up is becoming a highly desirable path, and not just one you can easily teach in college. Learning the tools and skills needed to succeed in the new tech economy is also becoming more accessible, but those who can’t afford multi-thousand dollar degree program or coding intensives are still facing barriers to entry. New technology and the internet of things have helped democratize so much opportunity across all industries, namely education. So far I’m proud of my generation for helping push things forward, but I still wonder if there is more we can do to help bring everyone into the fold. Are coding and web design becoming cool again? Are kids showing an interest earlier on and sticking with it because they feel supported? I want to be a part of the movement towards greater inclusion and opportunity for all. Maybe I am a part of it just by putting myself out there like this.