Message Received

Communicating is sometimes hard for me. I don't always like to talk on the phone; I am not very good at expressing myself vocally; I prefer to write things in a letter or a journal or on a post it note. When I was young, my mother used to yell at me and I would just glare at her wordlessly. I am not good with words. If there is a "wrong thing" to say, I may accidentally say it. I take that back, I will probably say it. So I sometimes keep quiet instead.

When I went to college, I received my very first email address from CSU, Sacramento. I had no idea what to do with it. The only people I knew with email addresses were the other students in my classes, and I could just talk to them. Why would I go all the way to the computer lab to email someone that lived right next door to me in the dorms? However, I did go over there to sometimes play solitaire on the computer between classes. Other than that, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about, maybe because there was no fuss.

The first time I went abroad, I lived and worked in France for three months. Every couple of weeks, I would buy a phone card and go and stand on the street at a pay phone and call my parents to let them know that I was okay, where I had been and what I was doing. I sent post cards and letters and beer labels home to my friends. I wrote in my journal and kept a box of scrapbook worthy items (mostly beer labels). There were internet cafes, but they were mostly full of people smoking and drinking coffee in front of empty computer stations. I did have an email address, but I still did not know a lot of people who had emails themselves, nor was using email as a means of communication yet a habit.

I am learning to communicate. I am still not very good at doing it vocally. However, through the means of email, I have learned to ask questions and to ask for help; I have asked people out on lunch dates that I may not have asked before; I have learned things about people that I would not have asked them about. I have made friends that I probably would not have made if I had to pick up the phone and talk to them, not only around the world, but even on a smaller scale such as around the office at work.

Both the internet and I have come very far since the 90s. I did not have that first email address until I was 18. I didn’t really use it until I was 22. And then that was ALL I used the internet for. I didn’t even own my own computer until I was 26. I didn’t need it! I went to the computer lab to study and to write papers and to do research on the internet. Now I use it to find knowledge and different worlds and great people.

The communication lines are now open.

I always wonder if I would be different if I had been a child in a world full of Internet. Would I know more or less? Would I be more outgoing or less? Would I still hand-write Thank You cards or not?

This post is part of the Write on Edge RemembeRED prompt. Today's assignment was:

Many of us remember life before the internet. We wrote letters instead of emails, used encyclopedias instead of Google, and went to parties that weren’t of the Twitter variety. For this week’s prompt, we want you to recall those early memories of being online. Tell us how it impacted your life and what it meant for you. Write about your experience in 600 words or less.

Now tell me -- do YOU remember the days before the internet? When did you get your first email address? When did you actually start to use the internet regularly?


  1. Oh, I like this very much and it is similar to mine. I appreciate how you made it about communication.

    I did the laundry list too... oopsy.

  2. Would I be more outgoing or less?

    You have me totally intrigued with this question? I think I am introverted enough that I would have used the distance of the internet to keep people at arm's length. But maybe I could be brave like you and use it to break the ice--ask for those lunch dates--and put myself out there more. Very interesting take on the prompt!

  3. Great post. Love it! I too have clicked over from RemembeRED... Before the internet as we now know it, I too had no idea what I would need an email address for!

    In my 20s we had this weird email thing through our phone company. It cost 30 cents to send an email and 30 cents to receive one. I would ration myself to sending one email in the morning and checking email in the afternoon. It makes me laugh now - if I don't respond to an email quick enough these days I get text messages asking why I haven't responded. The world sure has changed!

    Great post. I have had a bit of a poke around your blog and I really like it. I will certainly pop by again.

  4. Sounds like we're about the same age. :) I might have been a bit behind you, because quite a few people did have email...but it still was a time waster, not a means of real communication.

    In terms of more outgoing vs. less, I wonder more about the explosion of other "communication" "opportunities"--namely smart phones, texting, Twitter. Genuine communication seems to have suffered in the clutter.

  5. I think that now that the internet is here, we communicate less than ever, unfortunately!

    Great job with this prompt--you really captured the flavor of what it was like 'back in the day', when we were still new to technology and were hesitant to jump into it.

  6. I love the thoughtful questions that you pose. I'm also so not a phone person and find it so much easier to communicate in writing.

    I love that you write thank you letters and last, but not least, I went to school at UCD! What a lovely, small world that we'd never realize without *gulp* technology!

  7. I do remember life before the internet. I think I started using the internet in high school, but I didn't use it all that much. Instead I used email SO MUCH. I had a boyfriend that lived an hour away so we did alot of communicating over email! Oh if only I could read those emails again, I am sure I was such a dork back in my younger days.

    I am definitely an email/texter. I do not care for talking on the phone. Even when I am in the car, I don't like talking on the phone. I have to sort of 'pep myself up' to make a phone call if that makes sense. I do REALLY like skyping or video chatting on google, though. I do it about every other week with Canadian Amber and it's a great way for us to stay in touch!

  8. I am exactly the same way! I have so much trouble talking to people.

  9. For sure kids now are changed in social behavior because of the internet. Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing. Who knows. But it has to be weird to have facebook when you are 10, right?!

  10. There was no such thing as email or internet when I was in college. I do remember going to the library a couple of times my senior year and typing my papers on a computer there and printing them out (in dot matrix no less) and thinking it was the best thing on earth. Once I graduated I had no more need for my typewriter, and then several years later I got my own computer. The typewriter still sits in storage, a relic I can't quite rid myself of. As for email, once I discovered it I became addicted-- an addiction that has lasted 13 years.

    Nice post on the prompt. Brings back so many memories. Thanks for that.

  11. What an interesting writing prompt. I honestly have a hard time remembering life before the internet. I remember using a computer to play Oregon Trail in elementary school, and I know we got internet access relatively early in the game (both of my parents are computer nerds).

  12. I feel like I've "discovered" computers later than some as well. I too, was addicted to computer solitaire. I used email only when necessary, but preferred the phone or a letter.

    But yet. I'm also intrigued by the idea that the safety of a keyboard makes us more open, not less. I know I've shared things online that have made true connections to the people I interact with on a daily basis. I know that my online bravery has become real-life bravery.

    So, yes, I have high hopes for the future. As long as they remember to transfer internet confidence to day-to-day connections.

  13. I had a similar introduction to the world wide web. Freshman year of college I got this email address with all these weird letters and symbols in it. Http? What was that??

    I honestly think we'd know less growing up with the internet. Why bother learning things if you can just look them up?

  14. When I first started my email account, I went to a friends or the library to check for emails. I had a few friends who used the internet, but not many at first. Now, who doesn't?
    You wrote beautifully about the whole original experience.
    Thank you.

  15. Whoa - I'm going to age myself here pretty fast if I write too much about life before the internet. But ... I've had an email address since 1978 ! I worked for a large geographically-dispersed communications company where some very smart people created an internal email system that ran on mainframes (you can google that term ;-) So email wasn't a big deal. But email in the workplace quickly becomes a curse when you receive literally hundreds per day - the company even created 'email etiquette' courses !

    As for the internet - love it - it's like having a huge library at your fingertips, plus banking, shopping ... How did we ever live without it ??

    Nice post, Kyria; I was off looking at your more recent posts too, but my internet connection is too slow to load each one to comment on. :(


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