Welcome to a Gen X's life - In 1994 you're 19 and you imagine you're going to be a writer one day, overlooking Toronto's Queen St and working with a typewriter, but a year later in 1995, daytime talk shows are talking about "the world wide web" which is something you only started using the previous December to check out Usenet chat boards. I'm placing you in my memories here so that you can begin to imagine the foreign land that was the past, one that had extinct cultural animals like used-bookstores.
By the late 1990s I'd graduated from the same Maritime art school as the person who wrote this:
If anything I studied painting but I am mostly part of that generation for whom everything changed, and who dropped everything they were previously doing, when the web came along.
I've quoted that before because I could have said it myself. I went to art school because I wanted to be a painter and live as Picasso did in mid 20th Century Paris. In other words, at 20 I aspired to be an art celebrity in a culturally relevant place. Joke was on me however, since I was just naive and in Canada, a culturally irrelevant place.
But a technological revolution as big as the invention of the printing press had dropped into our lives in the middle of an impoverished media scape then dominated by conflict talk shows and the interminable OJ Simpson scandal (that went on for 18 months!) Of course it was exciting, even if it was mediated by Netscape Navigator.
At this point it's academic for me to wonder what kind of life I'd have had without the development of the web since I've been working with it ever since. I coded my first webpage in the year 2000, learning that webpages are merely a text file with <wrapping tags>. I built on that and the browser's View Source to publish a rudimentary website by 2002. In 2003, I’d begun to use Blogger.com. I’d also gotten involved with a Toronto art collective which worked with email lists, and in turn created by own email list and website called Goodreads.ca. Before Goodreads.com ate my url’s lunch, I used the email list to send out links to interesting articles I curated as I came across them. I read a lot back then since I was mostly unemployed. Years later, all of this digital familiarity gave me the foundation to be a professional email developer, work I’ve been doing since 2013. Nineteen year old me who anticipated working with a typewriter is very surprised.
So I created a Substack. But this is also to say, along the way I created a Blogger, and then used Wordpress, and later Medium, and signed up for Tiny Letter but never used it. Of course, I also signed up for Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. At this point, I've learned my social media lessons, and never signed up for Snap Chat nor Tik Tok.
To be of my generation is to be in your 40s or older and willing to try new web platforms. Substack is obviously the latest thing to try, and true to its form, I might as well use this to find out if there’s an audience for the things I occasionally write about.
To be of my generation is also to scream into voids and be ignored, so what they hell right, they can’t cancel you if they don’t even acknowledge you exist.