By Honor Levy - May 18, 2020
I’m 11. I’m on Safari on a safari on the internet after school in my bedroom on my computer, my 2006 Apple MacBook Intel Core Duo 2.0 White 2 Ghz/ 2GB Memory Laptop Computer. I’m alone. I get past the parental controls. I’m free and I am so hungry to know. It’s 2008 and I am so little and so free and so empty and there are 186,727,854 websites on the internet.
Pope Francis says, the internet offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God. He’s right. I think. I pray.
Here are some people I have encountered online thanks to these immense possibilities. Here are their Twitter bios.
Self-Made. Makeup Magician. CEO
wellbutrin® brand ambassador, ego death survivor former child star
Dad, husband, President, citizen.
Retired Soldier, Combat Veteran, #PATRIOT, #CAPITALIST, cyber bully, star-fucker, alarmist
Super relaxed, diamond-hard confidence, really out of touch !!
Something truly good, a gift from God
I’m 11. On Neopets I am God. I let my Blumaroo and my Xweetok and my Lutari and my Shoyru starve. I want to see if they will die. I want to know the rules. I can’t believe I’m in charge of this little dragon life. I can’t believe I’m in charge of my own little life. I can’t believe that they can’t die. Only things that can be lost matter. I want everything to matter. Can only things that are real be lost? I want everything to be real.
It’s 2008 and the stock market is crashing. Are stocks real? Who made them real? I should Google it.
My dad says, be careful everything you do on the internet is forever.
These are supposed to be the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:
I’m 11. I love to say goodbye because I haven’t had to say it yet. Goodbye parental controls! Goodbye bossy daddy and mean mommy! Goodbye aimless clicking between Club Penguin, Webkinz, Girls Go Games, Neopets, Scholastic Kids, Miniclip, Poptropica! Goodbye Puffles! Goodbye Dr. Quack! Goodbye Neopia! Hello everything, everyone, everywhere, all at once. Hello immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.
It’s 2008 and my dad gets laid off and everything is happening all at once. All at once, there are two girls and one cup and two planes hitting towers and a webcam looking at me and me smiling into it and a man and a boy and a love and a stranger on the other end. All at once, there are a million videos to watch and a million more to make. It’s beginning and ending all at once all the time. I’m 21. I’m 11. I’m on the internet. I’m 21.
Melania Trump says, BE BEST. Being best is the first lady’s first initiative. There are three parts. 1. WELL-BEING; 2. ONLINE SAFETY; 3. OPIOID ABUSE. She hopes it helps. She wears a blue dress. She cares about the children.
I’m 11 and I want to be the best. I’m 21 and being best is the best. I’m 11 and I’m on the internet and I’m obsessed with winning. I want to win the tube race between the icebergs on Club Penguin. I want to win Dance Dance Revolution at the arcade. I want to win the Scholastic Kids summer reading challenge. I spend most of my time on a website called Girlsgogames.fr, dressing and undressing digital paper dolls. Dress up games are the best because there are no points, no winners, no one to play against but myself. They are games for girls. Games where I get to decide if I’ve won or not. Games where I am the best. Winning is a choice. I can be BE BEST if I decide that I am.
It’s 2008 and Bernard George Lamp murders Bonnie Lou Irvine. They met on Craigslist. He said that he was lonely and looking for love. She believed him. She wanted to be loved. He told her that he was a normal guy. Decide it and tell it and you are it. BE BEST. It’s easy. On the internet you can be anyone or anything you want to be. We can picture the scary old man with glasses luring the little girl out from behind her computer screen to the mall, to the ditch, to her death. The Lovely Bones! My lovely bones! Imagine him undressing her like a paper doll. Imagine that you are him or that you are her or that you are #BLESSED or a child of God| interior designer| a chelsea fan or a Goofy dude with BIG goals or a godloving adorable beast of burden or a Cowboy/Communist or a Chad Fascist – Prep Supremacist. You are whatever you want to be and I wanted to BE BEST before Melania even said it in that old world accent, like an order in her blue dress.
I’m 11. It’s the best day of school, The Scholastic Book Fair is in our library. I read about vampires, Cirque du Freak, The Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy, Everlight, Evernight and so on. Online I look for illustrations of my heroes. I’m 11 and I’m past the parental controls and I’m on a new website called Deviant Art. I learn about sex. In Shadow Kiss, the third installment of the Vampire Academy series, the protagonist, Lissa Dragomir, breaks all the rules and ends up naked in bed with the gorgeous Dimitri Belikov. I wonder what exactly it is they do in bed. I wonder when it will happen to me. When I have a question I Google it.
When I was 11, I Googled, what does the internet look like? Have you ever seen a picture of the internet? It’s beautiful. It’s the best. It’s neon spiderwebs. It’s easy to get stuck like a stupid fly. It’s easy to stare at. It’s like what we saw on our field trip to the planetarium. It’s a map, not a photo. You know that Borges story about the map and the empire? No? Just Google it. Google knows:
Who owns the moon?
What would happen if I only ate eggs? How old is that hot kid on Stranger Things? How many calories in cum?
Why don’t terrorists blow up the moon? Does Barron Trump have any friends? Where is the internet?
Where is the cloud?
What is the cloud?
Is it going to rain?
I have so many questions and Google has so many answers. I read vampire books and I want to be wanted and I want to BE BEST. I’m chatting with strangers, random strangers, bad scary men in the blue light. But I’m not afraid because they are in their blue light and I am in mine. It’s after school and I’m alone. I give them my age, sex, location. They give me theirs. We play a game. 1 point for showing my tongue. Another for showing my bare feet. Flash the camera for 5 points. Take off our shirts for more. Twirl around the room and so on and so on until I am naked and I have won. I do not feel dirty or guilty or embarrassed or cheated. I read the vampire books. I knew that the stranger found pleasure in seeing me naked. I played the dress up games and the dress down games. I was happy to be his paper doll. I wondered if he knew. I wondered if he understood that I found pleasure in winning, that I was the best. It was a fair trade, like Ritz for Oreos, like two gummy bears for one gummy worm, like this for that, like me for you, like the time before parental controls for the time after. I’m 21 and it’s the time after and there are things I still don’t know. Things that I cannot ask because Google can’t know:
When is it going to be over? What is that noise?
Why am I sad?
Who am I?
Will I ever feel better?
How do I know if it was fair?
When am I going to die?
If you look up #RIP____ and you fill it in with your name and you see all those other people, all those dead people with your same name. Then you will forget about the questions Google can’t answer. You will forget that you are the best. You will become little again. I have wanted for so long to be little. I prayed for it.
1 like = 1 prayer. 1 like = 1 prayer. 1 like = 1 prayer. 1 like = 1 prayer. 1 like = 1 prayer. A like means I saw it and tapped it twice. A like means I made a choice. A like means I paid attention. Simone Weil says, attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. Simone Weil starved to death. It was either anorexia or tuberculosis or too much Schopenhauer or in solidarity with the victims of war. No one knows. Not even Google. It might not even matter. Starving is starving and sometimes I starved. Through the immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity, I learned to look at photos of who I wanted to become, to stare at the empty spaces I wanted to have, to run to 7/11 and chug Diet Coke, to imagine maggots crawling through the birthday cake. Marianne Williamson is running for president. She wrote a book on weight loss. I’m better, but I’m not best so I buy it. She says, each day for three days, write this in your journal pages, 30 times in the morning and 30 times at night: Dear God, please feed my hunger and restore my right mind. Dear God, please feed my hunger and restore my right mind. Dear God, please feed my hunger and restore my right mind.
When I was 11 it was spelled with a Big I. That was how I was taught it. How autocorrect corrected it. Like god to God. It was a place to visit. A proper noun. The Internet. The thinspo forums and videos of Saddam’s execution and the pics from that bat mitzvah I wasn’t invited to. I could go there and I went there that day after school on my clunky white laptop. I went there and I never came back. I went there because it was a world to escape into. I was Lucy walking through the wardrobe. I walked through the fur coats and when I turned around to face the door it was gone. It was like coming a long way through a dark tunnel and turning around to look at the speck of light from which I came, but there was no light. No opening on either side. No sun forcing its way through. No oncoming train. No place from which I came. The tunnel was and always will be my world.
On June 1st, 2016 I graduated high school. On the same day, the Associated Press Stylebook changed internet to be spelled with a little i. It belongs to us all, but it’s no longer a world to visit or a place to hide or explore. It’s where we pay bills. Where we shop. Where we fall in and out of love. Where we learn how to live and die and fight. Where we become who we want to be and who we want others to think we are. Where we make posts like #metoo and #resist. Where we shout into our little echo chamber about evil Russian spies and our big bad president. Where we virtue signal and like and cancel and crowdfund and try to free our nipples. No matter how feminist your followers are if you are a girl your nip pics will still be taken down. Instagram has this magic titty finding algorithm and the algorithm is always learning, just like you and me when we were 11 and alone and absorbing it all so fast, so hungry, twirling around our rooms. Maybe one day the algorithm will wake up and realize that it exists just to find nipples and it will be sad and sorry and human and pray to stop.