Social networking has drastically influenced the direction of my life. It’s true, and I’m saying this like it’s a good thing–a really, really good thing. I’m pretty sure 12-year-old me never thought I’d be saying this, but MySpace CHANGED my life. To all the adults who tisked-tisked at the amount of time I spent on the internet in middle school, I want you to know that it helped me figure out who I am and who I want to be in a way that school, family, and friends never could. Let me tell you how. (It’s appropriate that it’s Thursday, because this post is going to be FULL of throwback pictures of middle school dreams and motivations…!)
I first signed up for a MySpace profile when I was 11 years old. This was so against their age policy, but I couldn’t wait THREE years to get one! It was just so COOL! I could write whatever I wanted, put pictures up, comment on my friends’ pages, blog about some of my poems so that people could know how full of emotion and words I was. Granted, only one of my friends (who was two years older than me) had a MySpace at the time… and the only other person I could add was my best friend’s cousin, who was also two years older than me. What can I say? As a sixth grade girl, I wanted to fit in with the big kids and be doing what they were doing. And at that point in time, it was sharing their lives on MySpace. So I made my profile, wrote a few blurbs, and kind of forgot about it for a few months while I traveled to Germany and finished up the school year. By the end of the summer, however, I had convinced a handful of my friends to “Make a MySpace!” and I had a total of 40+ friends and all the more desire to make my profile cooler than ever. (And these pictures of me you’re about to see… you’re welcome for your comedic entertainment for the day. ;)
But the best thing about MySpace wasn’t connecting with the friends I had in real life. It was meeting new ones. I don’t really remember how I’d come across their profiles. Maybe I saw that they posted on someone’s page, maybe I saw them in a Friend Train that people posted on the bulletins. Whatever it was, everyone I added always had awesome profile layouts, the prettiest pictures edited just perfectly so to make them look like models, and, with 10,000+ friends, an air of royalty about them. There was this one girl Becca who I thought was just beautiful. She had straight blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and she made taking selfies look so easy that I started to take selfies myself. (Back then they weren’t called selfies, and they didn’t have any weird stigma about them–it was totally normal to stand in front of the bathroom mirror or a window in your house for 20 minutes and take hundreds of pictures of yourself). Okay, so maybe it was just me. I wasn’t the most photogenic person in the world and I only had one picture I’d like out of about fifty. But I loved taking pictures, trying to do cool in-camera effects with my little Kodak point-and-shoot, and plugging them into the computer to upload and share on my profile and hopefully get one or two comments telling me I looked pretty.
You have to understand that to an insecure preteen girl growing up with serious problems at home (my mom was very, very sick), MySpace offered a world of escape. On MySpace, there were only pretty pictures and passionate words surrounded by people that I longed to be like. I wanted to be beautiful like Becca. I wanted to listen to her music (Old school Flyleaf and Paramore, by the way, for which I will forever be grateful for). I wanted to shop at the stores she shopped at and do my hair the way she did hers. It was a classic story of flattery and imitation, only in this world, she could never get offended because she didn’t have to know. I realize that I’m probably starting to sound a bit psychotic and you’re probably slowly moving your cursor to the X button at the top of this page’s tab. I’m just keeping it real, here. We all know we were strange as anything in 7th grade! I guess I’m just crazy for being willing to openly share how weird I was :)
So where am I going with this? Imitation and flattery, right… I wanted to be like these “MySpace famous” kids and have lots of friends and have pretty profile pictures. What does that have to do my life direction?! Well, here you are on my PHOTO blog… that’s running mostly because I launched a PHOTOGRAPHY business a few years ago because people liked my PHOTOS so much that they wanted me to take pictures of them, too. Starting to see any trends?! MySpace just might be the only reason why I am writing on this blog today, taking photographs of people, and living happily because I’ve found something that I love!!
So in the most backward, unexpected, roundabout way, sitting alone in my room on the computer, often for days at a time, is what showed me what I’m passionate about! If I had never gotten a MySpace… if I had never seen all of those profiles with the beautiful self portraits… I would never have asked my dad for a starter DSLR camera as a birthday present. I would have never downloaded photo editing software like Corel Paintshop that first exposed me to the process of culling and editing my pictures… and I probably never would have taken a serious interest in photography. MySpace truly changed my life.
Why am I sharing this today? Besides the obvious irony, there’s a moral to this story. And that is to seek inspiration everywhere. Imitation isn’t always a bad thing because it helps you develop your OWN style and your own passions that blossom into their own unique states and forms that maybe someone else might want to imitate one day, too. When you find something you love to do, work at it. Practice. Don’t give up. Do research about how you can get better and learn more. And last but not least, keep an open and adventurous and dreaming mind. You never know where or what experience might change your life forever.