The Beautiful Lie of Nostalgia

I don't get nostalgic about many things. It's strange because, as a preteen, I was obsessed with anime and manga, and now I'm averse to both. Maybe I enjoyed them too much, like how I used to enjoy bringing my My Twinn doll everywhere. Yes, I had one of those, and I don't remember why I wanted a doll that was identical to me. It was flippin' weird.

Oddly, the things I am nostalgic for are things I didn't get to experience. I didn't get to create and order my own Dream Doll Designer doll. I missed out on Stardust Classics and Magic Attic Club dolls. I did, however, get to experience Web 1.0, AKA the "Old Web," and I am somewhat nostalgic for that. Discovering Neocities was one of the highlights of my adult life. Finally, a place where people can code websites from scratch—for free! No bloat! No ads! No algorithms! Plus, you can still be discovered as well as discover and engage with fellow enthusiastic netizens. Hurray!

However, the old days weren't as great as they're often cracked up to be. I have some fond memories, but there were plenty of ads, pop-ups, viruses, scammers, trolls, and jerks. Most of my online friendships were crap. I'll admit I was a pain when I was younger (and still kind of am). I was extremely immature and even annoyed some rando who I thought was pretending to be a fictional character to whom I was attracted, not realizing that this guy was not role-playing at all. He was just some dude with a fan shrine and more patience than I could muster. I probably shouldn't have had Internet access until much later, when I ceased to be a stupid child.

I think it's great that there's a movement to "take back the Web" from the greedy, corporate clutches of Big Tech. I wouldn't say Neocities is totally decentralized, considering it's a host site with its own terms and conditions, but it's a start and serves its purpose. More and more people are getting fed up with the way the Internet works now, and it would be foolish to not be at least a little grateful for this revolutionary awakening. No, seriously. Realizing just how much Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the like have corrupted the online experience and reclaiming our digital autonomy is a big deal. It's very much needed. But there's a tendency to romanticize the past.

Like I said, the "Old Web" had its fair share of problems. No, it wasn't overrun with SEO and algorithms, but it was far from perfect. Ads and pop-ups were there. Viruses were abound. Trolls were stirring up drama and suicide-baiting. "Friends" could be phony and toxic. Admins and moderators were prone to power trips. Animated GIFs could be annoying and literally seizure-inducing. Finding what you were looking for wasn't as easy as it is today, and buyer protection was a unicorn. Also, misinformation and extremist groups had their own little corners, outrageous ideas just didn't have the algorithm wave to ride.

Nostalgia is a beautiful lie, but that doesn't make it inherently wrong. We long for what once was because there was something more simple and perhaps human about it. Nostalgia reminds us that one or two things were right back then. If you want a Neocities site and to incorporate "Old Web" aesthetics, go wild! Reclaim the freedom that was taken from us! But don't feel pressured, don't try to fit in just to belong somewhere. Not every website in the late '90s to early 2000s had animated GIFs, pixel art, or color combinations that made your eyes bleed. Just Magic Dolls is one example.

If you aren't interested in carving out your own digital space, that's okay! I don't believe coding or messing around with HTML/CSS is for everyone. There are other platforms with community and fandom (Tumblr, Pillowfort, Dreamwidth, etc), but if the pros of social media outweigh the cons for you, keep using it. I use Facebook and Instagram, and unless most 18" vinyl doll collectors move elsewhere, I don't plan on deleting my accounts. I enjoy engaging with fellow collectors and discovering new doll lines through Facebook groups and Instagram hashtags. I'm well aware of how corrupt Google and the social media giants are. I know they're using some extent of my (partially false) information to capitalize on my presence, but for me, it's a small sacrifice. The trick is to know how to avoid Big Tech's nonsense while using its tools. That's why I don't have a Twitter account.