A LIFE ONLINE
Without the internet, emo could not have existed the way that it did, and nor could I. Here are some words on that before I get into the fun stuff.
There could be no emo diary without the internet. As soon as I started keeping a journal, I began noting down all the lives I lived that day: at school, at home, and online. For me, the internet provided respite from a tough life at the former two – pure escapism that cost nothing. Within the first pages of my 2004 diary I write about an Avril Lavigne fanpage I’d joined, a boy I was talking to online, a friend who had snubbed me on MSN. I report on online dramas, interspersing the language I use online into my entries. On the precipice of my entire life going digital, I still wrote letters and made phonecalls, but most of my life was lived on forums, Myspace, MSN, dollmakers, YouTube – and the subculture I occupied in real life was intertwined with it.
The first video I ever watched on YouTube was Fall Out Boy’s A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me. My friend and I huddled around the computer as she fired up a website I had never seen before: I could not believe it was that easy to find a video we’d been watching Kerrang! for hours in the hope of finding. Emo’s popularity boomed at the same time that the internet was becoming increasingly a part of our lives, and the internet was integral to that boom.
All people my age were living online in 2006, but for obsessive teenagers into any subculture or fandom, the internet made our lives ten times easier. Being able to experiment with different artists by downloading their music on Limewire made getting into emo possible as a poor teen. Having forums to discuss my love of Avril Lavigne privately, without the fear of being bullied, made my school life easier. And via Myspace, I found friends who were into this new, American subculture that I thought only I knew; within six months of discovering emo, I had made lifelong friends who were into it that I had initially only spoken to online.
But it wasn’t just about community. Myspace is synonymous with emo; the social media platform, the first of its kind, allowed us to customise our pages to the nth degree. We could cover it in black and pink, in photos of Pete Wentz, forcing visitors to listen to whatever obnoxious song we chose. We could write angsty,
lengthy blogs about whoever had wronged us. We could discover new bands and we could message the ones we loved, praying for a response. Emo was about fandom, self-expression, melodrama, community. Other subcultures used Myspace, sure, everyone did. But it seemed custom-made for the things that mattered to us.
Every romance I had between 2004 and 2007 played out online. After I had my first kiss with a 12 year old boy with a lipring on holiday in South Wales in 2004, we kept tentatively in touch on MSN until he swapped my name out for someone else’s in his screenname. To get back at our exes or to express our devotion to new loves, we would paste appropriate emo lyrics into our names surrounded by broken hearts and roses.
Emo could not have happened the way that it did without the internet. From music fandom to Myspace celebrities to Piczo sites full of birds-eye selfies, the two will forever be wed. The internet gave kids like me – kids with few resources, few friends, but a lot of ideas about who they were – a place to meet up and feel a part of something. It still does.
We were the first generation to feel the internet creep into our lives and take over, before we lived entirely online. In 2006 the internet was exciting; a novelty, something I would settle down to after a long day. I would note down its details in my diary because they felt ephemeral and special. Now, it’s a nagging spouse that won’t let me have two minutes alone. Being online now is as natural and as necessary as breathing, and I miss it being rare. With this issue I want to pay tribute to that glorious era, to the relationship between emo and the internet, and to all of the romances, friendships and fandoms that played out online before tragically bursting into flames either in an MSN flame war or over a cruelly-worded text. I hope it makes your cold dead hearts feel a little something, like the new message sound on MSN used to.