How to win the Internet without really trying

Strange, the things that can happen in your day.

So yesterday I wondered why an ILX thread asking if I was classic or dud had been revived, read the new posts and saw the comment ‘apparently ned raggett has won the internet?’ related to a post that had appeared on the Thought Catalog site. Said post, entitled “The Different Types of People There Are on the Internet” had a section written by Molly Young called “People Who Have Won the Internet,” which concluded in this fashion:

There aren’t a lot of them but there are too many to name–so maybe it is time we started a list. I will offer my top five: Molly Lambert, Julian Assange, Tavi, Andrey Ternovskiy, and Ned Raggett.

And that was a list of names I thought I would never read together — much less be part of.

I was terribly flattered, wondering if I had missed a joke somewhere and utterly baffled all at the same time — I don’t know Molly Young personally and in comparison to what everyone else listed had done, ranging from high profile style blogging to massively popular new software to, well, being Julian Assange, I was just this random guy who mostly writes about music. Nothing too different or special from a lot of other people, and I think a lot of other people do it better. On Facebook and elsewhere the reactions from friends were pretty great — Max R. said “i couldve told you this, ned,” while Conrad posted, “‎*imagines a ceremony where Ned is standing next to Assange and an LOLcat, receiving medallions ala the end of Star Wars.*” And this is a vision, it’s kinda true.

After I expressed my thanks (and befuddlement) on Twitter, Molly mentioned that she’d been reading ILX for a while — given my ups, downs and all arounds there over all ten plus years of its existence, that’s quite the impression I must have left! But it made me think a bit of the first part of her entry on winning the Internet, so to quote that:

People who deftly dramatize and inhabit the internet; people who have read the whole thing; people who determine the rules of internet engagement.

Which is when I grew a bit more reflective. (Okay, so I’m overthinking this all a bit, perhaps, but that’s what I can do.)

I’m coming up on forty years here in six weeks, and for half that time I’ve been on the Net in one form or another — my first tentative e-mailing was in 1991 and the real plunge wasn’t until two years later, but even so. For about a decade before that time I was generally aware of computer culture, however haphazardly — I still remember the first home PC I ever saw, owned by a former executive officer serving under my dad in the Navy, back in 1981 (and by this time I’d had my Atari game system for a couple of years so some form of roots go back even further). But pretty much from twenty two years of age onward I’ve been on the Net, in one way or another, though always — in my mind, at least — just as someone who was there almost randomly.

A couple of friends have joked that it’s due to having read the whole thing which caused me to win the Internet and, well, I’ve read a LOT but I think far more people have read a lot more. (Given some of the foolish folderol out there now anyway, who’d want to read the whole thing unless one has endless patience for, say, illiterate YouTube comments.) But the other criteria proffered — deftly dramatizing and inhabiting the Internet, determining the rules — made me think less of the Net than something more than that. If one has that kind of impact, on any scale large or small, it’s less about actively trying to stake a place than simply being yourself. To dramatize, inhabit, determine anything — in real life, on the Internet, whatever — comes from that base.

Which sounds patently obvious, I realize. But looking at my fellow winners-as-such brings that a bit more home — all five of us, from what I can tell via their own public profiles, are distinctly different personalities rather than of a type. Certainly we’re all a bit showy at the least — Assange perhaps most notoriously in the public eye, given his paranoia and predelictions — but we’re all coming from it in much different ways and at different points in life. I definitely couldn’t expect Tavi and I to see the world in anything quite the same way, for instance. We’re all inhabiting the Net in our own fashion — Lambert has her sites and photos and writings, Ternovskiy his programming and resultant possibilities.

Determining the rules? Well, perhaps we’re all just setting examples. All of us — and as Young noted in her piece, it’s not JUST the five of us and never could be — might seek to gain different kinds of reactions from audiences but if we’re doing so it’s because we’re operating in a social sphere; the Internet is if nothing else not designed for isolation. Whatever aspects of our personality are projected and then finely honed or cartoonishly overblown (or any range of points between). They can become something to be observed and — I suppose, if one likes — reacted to, engaged with, perhaps even be something to serve as a model.

Which is kinda grotesque to type, at least in my case. I really don’t know what example I set at all in anything, really, and I try not to act that way. Keep in mind I am eternally my own worst critic, and most often frustrated with myself over and above anything else. Learning to take compliments of any sort is still a little hard, no matter how nice it is to receive them and what an honest boost it provides. The counterexamples in my head of me at my worst never quite go away, and that’s not false modesty talking, believe me.

But with that in mind, I still try to do my best, as I can, when I can. Hopefully that’s more often than not. I said some years ago that my existence at base is “the product of a combination of fortuitous circumstances” when it comes to my life and upbringing, and as time goes on I see that all the more. I try not to take it for granted.

I can also say that in many ways these last few months have been some of the best ever in my life — I don’t go into private aspects too much here on the blog or elsewhere simply because, well, it’s a blog, and that’s a pretty public thing. If that’s part of the example set — that it’s more than all right NOT to talk about everything — then I’m content with that. But I have reached a point where I feel like I’ve found an overall calm and balance in many things, in health and home and heart, and without wanting to specifically teach or instruct people on how to find that — and while, again, acknowledging the role of fortune, whether it relies on making one’s own luck or understanding the goodness that luck provides — I can say that there is no reason not to try for that as one can. Call it a midlife crisis if you like — or the aftereffects of one — but there it is, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

The day to day continues in life, and it’s never guaranteed. I have no idea what the future will bring and for all I know five minutes after I post this, the long suspected Big One hits SoCal with levels well off the Richter scale and that could be it for me. But — to also take an excuse to post a photo of me from this past weekend’s trip up to Oroville — if I’ve won the Internet at all at any point in anyone’s eyes, well, maybe I’ve just won at life in general to some degree. If so, I only wish we all could.


As an addendum — in a private discussion with friends about all this, one suggested that the five of us who won the Internet would make for the best Real World season ever, while another suggested we should form a band. I asked for a name, and a third friend suggested the highly appropriate ‘Screen Tan’ — which led to the creation of this by Photoshop expert Sean C.:

Screen Tan

About right, really.

2 Responses to “How to win the Internet without really trying”

  1. Sarah Connolly Says:

    I could have told you *years* ago you won the net, m’dear!

    There’s a whole sub-culture around here that I was n00bed into way back in, well, what- 95/96?, that thought net=Ned. You are synonymous.

    I miss chatting w/ you. :/

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