I grew up with Web 1.0. I never had a Geocities website, but I loved visiting a few that were dedicated to fantasy and mythological creatures. I was too young to understand HTML at the time, but by twelve years old I was on Pitas.com and learning the ropes.
I didn't realize just how much freedom and creativity had been squeezed out of the internet until I discovered Neocities in February 2021. Prior to joining, I was an aspiring author and reviewer of books, movies, and TV shows. I had a WordPress blog and was focused on content creation and monetization. I wanted to make a name for myself. I was bringing a fresh (and slightly radical) perspective to the table. But I honestly never enjoyed any of it.
Everything is about branding and monetization these days. It's all so boring and empty, but I assumed it was just part of being an adult. I grew up and so did the internet. Capitalism is just life.
Except it isn't. Things really don't have to be this way.
Toward the end of December 2020, I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I didn't find it too shocking because it confirmed a lot of what I suspected about social media, but it especially shed light on just how insidious corporations are. The rise of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and violent animosity is no coincidence. These companies profit off of it all.
I found out about Neocities through SpaceHey, which I discovered through Twitter. I ended up joining the Yesterweb server on Discord and it's been a liberating experience. Finally connected with people who shared my feelings about the modern web, I decided to delete my blog and social media accounts and haven't looked back.
Participating in this dencentralized sliver of the modern web has made me question myself deeply. For years, I've wanted to be a (traditionally) published author. I was set on making my mark on the publishing world. I used to be a digital artist, but I gave up art because writing seemed to come more naturally to me, and I couldn't afford to split my energies anymore. Not with a serious writing career. I'm also disabled, so the spoons are always low.
I didn't want to accept my disabilities, though. I didn't want to accept that I wouldn't be able to handle the cold, hard fact that publishing was a business and I'd ultimately have no say in deadlines, let alone the rest of the process. Traditional publishing can't be a hobby. You either keep churning out books, or you lose your career, and that's if a good agent and publisher even decide to give you a chance. My mental health would've been bound to seriously tank.
There's always self-publishing, but my interest in writing books has withered. I hadn't even finished a single one. My stories kept falling apart and I'd outgrow them. I can finally say with confidence that I am simply not cut out to be an author.
What exactly does this have to do with the old web, you might be wondering? Well, like I said, the modern web is all about the almighty brand. Publishers are looking for authors who can also be influencers. They expect you to be on social media and to be making them money. It's business. And I really don't care about business.