The year was 2005. I was a young 25-year-old mom with a two-year-old daughter living in a small town in South Carolina.
Country life in the deep south was pretty chill. I spent our summer days picking berries at the u-pick farm down the street, working a few hours in the tiniest co-op health food grocery store ever, going to storytimes at the library, thrifting for some cute new vintage cloth napkins, and writing a lot.
That year I wrote a lot of poetry, I even joined a little group of local writers that met once a month at the library. Mostly retirees, I was the youngest by a few decades. There were aspiring southern gothic mystery writers, children’s book and YA authors, and the one wise old published author who had written a history of the region that did semi-well. They enjoyed my poetry even if they seemed a little shocked by it. Nevertheless, it was fun to be around people that were creating something.
The other kind of writing that I started doing at this time was blogging. I had discovered that there were bloggers out there that crafted. Since my days as a stay-at-home mom consisted of a lot of free time, I had picked up some hobbies, and one of them was sewing cute little toys for my daughter. I’m not sure how it happened, but I discovered that there were other moms online doing the same thing. They would post pictures of their WIPs (work’s in progress) or finished projects, and tell stories about mom life. Many of them were homeschooling moms, hippies like me who just wanted to enjoy simple things, like canning or finding old-school wooden toys at the flea market.
It was such a sweet time. When you hear nostalgic stories of bucolic days, they often seem kind of impossible. But looking back, it really was a different time on the internet. I didn’t find myself addicted and scrolling endlessly. Technology that got you hooked and exploited your dopamine receptors hadn’t been invented yet. I think Facebook was still on college campuses at that point. My favorite bloggers might post once a week, and it was something to look forward to. And they weren’t selling much, except maybe the occasional pattern that you could download. A lot of information was just traded for free.
It was a community of crafters, mostly sharing stories. We discussed our wins and losses, our creative outlets. As a young, liberal mom in a small southern town, it was really wonderful to have these online friends.
I had tried taking my daughter to playgroups with other moms, and while she had a great time, I generally had difficulty connecting with those moms. I read beat poetry and wore vintage ringer tees and no bra. My child had been unplanned, we lived in a little house on the wrong side of the tracks and I felt like a freak next to these women with their freshly pressed clothes and perfectly appointed diaper bags full of snacks and sippy cups. My daughter just ate whatever I was eating, and I breastfed her a LOT longer than anyone else.
But online, I wasn’t a freak. There I learned how to make a simple baby sling to carry her on my hip before they became mass-produced, padded and popular. These moms were cool, they knew useful things. And there was no infighting or drama, no competition. No pressure, no followers, no likes.
Likes. Imagine a world where the creators of social media had decided not to put a like button on things. I think about that a lot. It was a conscious decision made at some point. I wonder how different it would be if they had decided against it. I know that Instagram is trying it out, and maybe others but I haven’t seen or heard anything about it myself.
I wonder if people will eventually lose interest in this high speed, pressured way of “connecting.” If we’ll go back to sweeter, more intimate connections like this. Medium was a response to that very thing after all. Maybe that’s why I feel so at home here.