September 1998
s m u g
net worth
by Gregory Alkaitis-Carafelli


Teeny Bopper, Domain Hopper.

Addiction isn't the right word; fetish is dirtily inappropriate; and I don't churn with an unrequited inner desire either -- but there is something strongly compelling about teen-produced sites now that the giddy excitement of free space at GeoCities has worn off, to be replaced with the giddy excitement of owning a second level domain. These new sites (mostly in .org and .net space) that sometimes come and go on a whim, with names like icebear, delish, plastique, bloop and pseud, represent people who have grown up with the Internet as, like, duh, of course it's there. For these young producers, access to the Internet is a given, almost as pervasive as Coca-Cola and full of the same sugary satisfaction, except for the most part there is nothing sweet about their web sites.

Couched in the ever oppressed and persecuted high school student teen tortured voice, these sites are everything from vapid and stilted to stunningly conceived and executed. On the downside are entire domains populated by girls (who said they mature first?) who like mostly dark green text on a darker green background, or who seem to do nothing but constantly attempt to define a social hierarchy with themselves somewhere near the top. But hidden among the fool's gold are also sites produced by young kids with a strong design sense who are also well-spoken and surprisingly in touch with the world around them. (Ah yes you say, naturally: those are my kids. Probably not; I suspect your daughter has an unnatural attraction to the color green.)

After a few hours of browsing around, though, everything starts to sound the same. There are no annoying ad banners that pop up (we're cruising in the plush neighborhoods, not GeoCities' slums), but Gloria still hasn't spoken to that cute boy Brian she's had a crush on for forever; the report card has been dutifully intercepted in the mail; and school sucks and so do YOU because I hate everything! Everything!

Except that teen-produced sites have something different, however elusive, that keeps me browsing onward. With the same tools as big business, young people are actually making interesting things -- no other segment of the population can take the world and squeeze it back out through new eyes, while also complaining about algebra homework and risking life and limb sliding around on boards of wood with wheels attached.

I missed out on Soap Operas when I was younger, watching instead taped episodes of the McNeil/Lehrer News Hour when home sick from school, but I don't think I'm compensating for that now. I should just get outside more, but instead I read things like this:

"One things for sure, high school is the mother of hell," according to Louise.

"I have a rash that itches covering my entire body, and a cold. I went to the doctor's office today, and it's some kind of virus. Wow. I hope when I go to school tomorrow that I spread it and half of the school gets it," Ashley writes.

According to Joey Nelson, "it's really weird to see people you've been going to school with for 10 years driving to school now. and talking about getting drunk at parties. back in 2nd grade, no one would have even thought they would be like that. it's kind of depressing to see all the people you used to be friends with just turning stupid. obsessed with who has the faster car, or who has the larger breasts, or who has the most expensive clothes."

"School is back in session. Yes. With this, it brings a whole new year to fuck up, and new people to blow off, and to make friends with. New chances for love and hate, new faces, new freshman to hate," Peter Smith writes.

I'm not sure if I am trying too hard to take myself back to those sepia-tinted, puce green and smelly hallways-filled-with-lockers days, or if I am just thankful it's all in the past, but I've often ended up still awake at three am reading about pushups in p.e. class or how damn Brian is so cute, if only she could work up the nerve to talk to him. It's not an addiction. I can quit any time I want.


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