I met the internet on an old desktop computer in the corner of my living room.
It hadn’t always had internet but it did have mahjong and minesweeper. I wasn’t good at those games- I couldn’t play in any productive or meaningful way because I wasn’t able to read the rules. I never won. It didn’t matter. I just liked that things would change when I clicked the mouse.
I hadn’t quite learned how to spell but I mostly knew my letters by the time we bought home internet. When I was allowed to use the computer, I would put my two favorite Barbies into their light blue convertible and drive them to the desk where I would painstakingly copy b-a-r-b-i-e from the license plate logo into Internet Explorer. Matching each letter to its corresponding key was a game in itself. Finger Typing the correct url was like solving a cipher and I was granted access to a million free games once I cracked the code. There was a game where you could take a baby to the grocery store, a game where you could make a cake, a game where you could name and design a horse... It was exciting and playful and limitless. At that time, the internet was one perfect website that I could navigate by myself because every time I moved the mouse something amazing happened.
In elementary school, it became a shared experience with my peers. The internet connected me to the people beside me. Shoulder to shoulder, perched on an extra chair dragged in from the dining room, we would look into the same screen. We existed distinctly outside of the internet- it was a toy that lived in a box restricted to public libraries or home offices or school computer labs. A bit later, when everyone had their own devices, friends lived on the opposite side of my screen instead of beside me. There was always someone to talk to so I was never alone, however, I was often by myself. I’m still not sure that’s something I like.