24 January, 2014  |   5 Comments

On Blogging: The Internet is a Teenager

Mostly, I like to watch what’s popular about the internet, and how it changes.
Over the past 16 years*, I’ve loved to watch it change.

All of the changes had to do with misconceptions and misplaced worries and self-consciousness and pack behavior and self-pity and ego and mob-mentality and all the traits that make us human and people and terrible and awesome.
(Just like growing up.)


We humans got a new medium to communicate. This medium shares similarities with the telegraph, radio and television, but has its own special qualities. It’s personal communication at scale. You can talk to the world… and the world can talk back to you.

And it doesn’t seem like we ever understood how HUGE this change was.

Sixteen year old Helen JaneWe are now in a special place, the teenagerdom of the internet. We’re 16 years old. We’re getting our license, rebelling against authority and we’re getting buzzed on the latest thing that takes us out of the misery of being, well, human.

We’re trying out being mean, we’re changing the way we spell our names (ahem, Helyn Jayne) and we’re trying on new personas until we find one that feels right.

Sixteen years old is terrible.
Sixteen years old is awesome.

When I find myself thinking about the internet, I like to look to other media to find similarities.

Where was television at 16 years old?
If the FCC allowed permits for broadcast television in 1941, let’s add 16 years to that. Now we’re at 1957. So the internet is at 1957 in television terms. Now where was television in 1957?

Here’s a photo of people watching television in 1958. Even the photo is in black and white.

This is us with the internet right now.

The top 3 shows in 1957 were:
1. Gunsmoke
2. The Danny Thomas Show
3. Tales of Wells Fargo

Not everyone yet had a television, and not everyone got the in-jokes yet. Advertisers were still getting a handle on how this new medium would get paid for and determining popularity was a crapshoot.

The most popular internet web sites are going to look silly, right?
Your insecurities are going to look sort of ridiculous, no?
These comparisons are like Gunsmoke vs. Tales of Wells Fargo and… well, who’s still mulling that over?

The independent web, one that’s developed on 4 freedoms, the one I signed on for in 1998, this independent web is a terrible/awesome sixteen year old.

It’s easily fickle, trying-shit-out. It jumps to conclusions and doesn’t read all the way through. It likes boobs and people doing it and stories about famous people being silly. It’s awkward, it’s beautiful and it has no idea the power it has.

And, quite frankly, neither do you.
You can talk to the world… and the world can talk back to you.

What we choose to do with this medium at sixteen years old, says a lot about the kind of medium this could become.
It says a lot about the kind of kid the internet was and the adult it’ll grow into.

So when we talk about how terrible people are and
the walls around the internet and
the sexualization and
the comments and
the arguments and
just how awful the internet is…

remember, it’s just a teenager. The really bad stuff won’t be over for at least 7 years.

Stick with us, it’s going to be amazing.


* Yes, yes, I know YOUR internet is 20 years old or 30 years old or eleventytwelve years old.

5 thoughts on “On Blogging: The Internet is a Teenager

  1. 1

    Love you, Helen Jane. You are the Godmother of the Internet.

  2. 2
    Stacey says:

    This is brilliant! You were (are) gorgeous btw. And…I was “Stacie.” LOL.

  3. 3

    Seriously, what Asha says. Which I think pretty much makes you the Aretha Franklin of blogging.

  4. 4
    Margit says:

    What an awesome, insightful piece HJ (HJ!) XO “Margaret”

  5. 5

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