Because if you're 18 or under, you can't imagine your life without the Internet. I mean, isn't that sort of life without electricity or flushable toilets?
Yet I survived teenhood pre-internet. Wanna know what it was like?
- I had two ways with which to communicate with my friends: in person or on the telephone. Well, I could write letters, too. Come to think of it, I did a lot of note-passing in high school. It's a lot easier to sneak a few scribbles onto a scrap of paper than it is to try to hide the fact that you're texting illegally.
- So this telephone thing? It was attached to the wall. And the receiver was attached to a long, curly-stretchy cord that I sensitively stretched right across the kitchen entry so I could sit around the corner in my "phone spot". I had to sit there for the entire conversation (unconscious of the fact that I'd put the rest of my family in danger of strangulation). This means I couldn't go into my room, pee, or leave the premises. It was the age of IMMOBILE communication.
- If I wanted to find out a boy's phone number, I had to use a phone book. That is, the fat, printed-on-cheap-paper thing that arrives on your porch once a year (I'm not sure why they still print those things). And I had to know his father's name. And probably the street he lived on, just to be sure it was the right number.
- Then, of course, I wouldn't call him.
- When I actually wanted to WRITE to a friend, it was with real ink on real paper. It was a good thing my dad was a mailman, because we always had stamps in the house. It was one of the few things I was allowed to remove from his desk drawer without permission. Talk about privileged! I mean, stamps on demand. How cool is that?
- I didn't even have to mail the letters, because my dad always took our mail to work with him. That's about as close to the convenience of email as it got.
- Of course, there was no way to know whether the letter was actually RECEIVED. Not unless I received a reply (which could take DAYS). Or maybe a phone call.
- And if the phone rang during supper? We weren't allowed to answer it. We had to LET. IT. RING.
- Can you imagine being 16, hoping to hear from someone Really Important, and NOT BEING ALLOWED TO ANSWER THE PHONE?
- When I wanted to know whether the latest book was out from my favorite fantasy author, I had to go to the bookstore and LOOK THROUGH THE SHELVES. Mind you, these were book-twos and book-threes I was waiting for. DYING to know what happened next, and no way to track when the next release would be available. I couldn't afford the hardbacks, either. So when those gorgeous, hardbound books finally appeared in the bookstore, I had to wait a very long time for the paperback to come out. Think about that. Then think about how easy it is to pop onto Amazon or Borders and find out EXACTLY when your favorite author's next book will arrive.
- Term paper research? Hours at the library. With encyclopedias and other books-with-tiny-print. And you're not allowed to have food or drinks in the library.
- Invitations? Came in the mail.
- Movie trailers? We saw them when we went to the movies. Whether we wanted to or not.
- Finding like-minded teens who shared our passions and interests and with whom we could totally be ourselves no matter what? ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE. Especially if you lived in a very-tiny-town-where-almost-everyone-except-you-played-sports.
But you've got the Internet, which provides you with myriad ways to hook up with like-minded people. As a writer (and as a reader), everything you need is literally at your fingertips.
Advice! Information! Critique! Community!
There's a lot of bad stuff out there. Surfing the web isn't risk-free. But you're here, on this blog and in this community, because you know how to find the GOOD stuff. Stuff that's going to help you grow as a writer. Stuff that's going to make a difference in your life because you're taking your talents and abilities seriously.
I survived without the Internet, but you can THRIVE WITH it!
It's a great time to be a young writer. I'm privileged to be getting to know each of you.
(Okay, that's a really dorky ending, isn't it? But I couldn't resist.)