March 30, 2016

Field Notes From Being an Internet Teen


I read once, etched into the top of a toilet paper holder in middle school, the phrase 'Internet kids never sleep'. I'd slept at all the night before (I had testing that week, it was probably for the better), but I still felt a pretty large grain of truth in it. On my Twitter page, one of the first Tweets recalls the fact that most of my friends 'live' in the information-sphere known as the Internet...or to some of us, 'home'.

I get out of school at 1:55 and off the bus at 2:30. The rest of my afternoon is in town at the Barnes and Noble, where I'll leech free wi-fi and write a post until it's finished or until I go back to my house. That's when the better portion of my day starts, because where at all is better than home sweet home? (Hint: It's decked in virtual furniture and I call it 'Twitter'.)

ohmygosh, I was tiny. This was the year I started the blog.
I was the twelve year old on the internet that everyone fears. (Okay, over-exaggeration, but I've kind of wanted to say that ever since I knew this post could be a thing.) Nonetheless, I was twelve and on the Internet, for the better or worse. In fact, I had my start blogging when I was eleven,  though I didn't say a whole lot. I had my interactions both positive and negative; I made friends who I would never want to lose today, and I learned exactly what it meant to socialize carefully and to choose friends wisely almost immediately from the get-go.

However, after a year or two of learning how to stand on my own, I was able to get on my way. From getting pushed around some, I learned how important it was to keep myself under wraps until I got older if I wanted to be paid any respect at all. For a long time, that meant anything I could afford. When I first started out as a completely anonymous identity, I don't even think I gave out my timezone. When I joined Twitter, I started to relax more as I made more trusted friends, some of whom were only a year or two older than me (versus being twice my age or greater). Some of them were older, but I decided that as long as I didn't make a big deal to myself about it, it wouldn't matter. Friends were friends, right?

After PAX Prime 2014. Before
I switched to writing about mul-
tiple games.
As I got older - thirteen becoming fourteen becoming fifteen - I loosened up more and more, but slowly. Probably the first thing to go was where I lived - Seattle, Washington - because I wanted to share so badly the foods I was eating. It also made talking about PAX a lot more realistic, since I never brought up hotels, traveling, etc. School had its ups and downs, and in a now much more relaxed state I was able to kick back with fewer worries to juggle around. (As an added bonus, I also started to get very good friends IRL who I could let in on my fun.) Cosplay started to become part of my life, and I started to share my face firstly through that, and then over time just got used to it. Nobody was calling me out by my voice or how I looked, so I decided I was fine for the time being.

Meeting up with people also started to become something to consider around when I first cosplayed. And yet, I was able to keep myself under wraps. I caved sometimes, not wanting to talk about 'work' or having to pipe up in a group that we couldn't sit in a section unsuitable for minors. And, of course, I had the support of my dad, who would be in constant touch or even sit a few tables away if I had doubts. (Can we quickly talk about my dad? So many things would be different if it weren't for him. Thanks, Dad!)

Eventually, I got to the point that I had considered a few years back. I'm now at the age in which I have more than one way to get away. I'm old enough to comfortably do my own banking and get money if I needed it. I have a good cell phone for contact just in case. And now, I'm old enough to take a test that'll give me permission to drive away if the horror stories come true and something goes terribly, terribly wrong. Weird to think of it like that, but off I went on my birthday a week ago and shouted it to the world: Hey, everyone. I'm a blogger who cares. I'm your friend and sometimes your local assassin in Gigantic - And I'm sixteen.

taken for the post. bad at the selfie.
More than anything, it was liberating to get it out. That work project I'd complained about? My project for Science Olympiad (by the way, totally took first place). I didn't need to stay tight-lipped about certain topics, and I had more of a license to exercise all that I didn't know about life instead of try to messily cover it up in constant apologies and a great part of silence. I have opinions on the issues that matter - war, health, politics - but for so long I've been too petrified to expose myself, resulting in a position of apparent neutrality. But now, I feel like I have more of a way to express my thoughts and opinions.

And that's where I'm starting to think that being an active, social Internet teen is vastly important in the gaming community. One of the really fabulous things about the world of video games is that it's one that's shared by a community of people vast in nearly every demographic I can think of. From the older-and-wiser to Those Whiny Brats on Mic (tm), age is one of the categories that spans really quite far. This means that developers may need to be thinking about a bigger picture of age demographics, especially if their game/s could possibly appeal to my generation. I think it's important as a member of that age group to make sure my thoughts are heard and that developers get a good sense of feedback from someone who's too young to know where I was on 9/11, or someone young enough to claim to have grown up in the age of Google. (Or maybe even, for games without my age group thought of, triumphantly announce my presence.)

I suppose I can say I've worried extensively about some sort of ageism coming from my coming-out. Actually, I can say that with full acknowledgement that it's true. Would I ever be taken seriously? By my friends? My readers? What about developers or companies that I'm interested in speaking with? If they find out how old I am, will I not be taken seriously? Overall, I feel that having the freedom to more accurately state my opinions without fear of being uncovered will help my blog and myself, and everything else is going to come second. I take myself very seriously when blogging, seeking topics, starting conversations, and even occasionally interviewing, so I can only hope that the same regard is given back. At the very least, my perspective may be different, thus giving a new side to how video games may be perceived.


So who am I, after all this? I'm a teenager, sure, but I'm a teenager with a voice, and that's what's important. I have opinions about video games, and I love to play and talk about what I think. I think my thoughts are important, and it's my ultimate goal for others to think that what I have to say is important, too. And you know what? That's how it's kind of always been. As bloggers, no matter who we are, we share two common goals: Speak loudly, and be heard.

No matter how old or young I may be, I'm someone with something to say. I'm a level sixteen text-based thought-sayer. (But if you need to shorten it, Sonja works just fine.)

3 comments:

  1. Anyone who can state a position on any subject and defend it rationally will be taken seriously whether they are 16 or 60. You express yourself very well. Nice piece. Oh! And congrats on that Science Olympiad first! :)

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  2. You are a really good writer. I read your blog and I'm 12 right now

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    1. Hey! This comment caught my attention. I started blogging when I was 11, so from personal experience, I want to let you know right now that you're doing awesome by reading others' work and you should really keep it up. Now is the perfect time to start doing something for the first time, because you never know where it'll take you down the line. Hope you're well!

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