Words by Steffanie Tan Art by Allison Gonsalves
It’s the summer before high-school and I’m determined to get this done.
I’m arranging square hedges in a three by three row, clumped together, to make one big square of whatever-I-am-growing-on-Farmville.
Empty blocks of virtual grass separate blueberries from strawberries, corn from carrots. I divide my block of land with fencing and because I have enough gold coins, I plant apple trees along the perimeter to make it look pretty. I’m so pleased with my digital farming I take a screenshot and share it to Facebook… before counting likes was a thing.
My old swivel chair creaks, it’s on its last days – the plastic lining is starting to bend away.
Dad lets me use his worn-out laptop, the same one I used to pronounce as “lamb-top,” when I was nine-years-old.
Some afternoons I log into Windows Messenger to see who’s online. Other times I peep at the screen through the cracks between my fingers, hoping I’ve successfully avoided the seven years of bad luck promised to me by some infamous and legitimately cursed chainmail.
On the weekends, friends come over to play Mario Kart and show me their MySpace profiles.
I never felt I needed one, not in those days, not like today.
Their MySpace profiles have trippy psychedelic backgrounds that always hurt my eyes with auto-playing songs all reminiscent of a once-beloved Fall Out Boy tune.
Mirror selfies consist of lopsided fringes that almost always cover one eye, flip phones, and oversized shutter shades I hate.
Everyone is friends with this one guy – a man who I still have no idea about, but recognise as the slightly pixelated bloke in a white shirt, smiling over his shoulder, and looking like Darren Criss in 12 years.
My friend X brought handmade scoobies for everyone so she’s been bumped up one spot on Y’s Top 8 friendship rankings.
I’m jealous I don’t exist on this list but I don’t care enough about it, yet.
Profile collages are filled with corny quotes and negative-filtered selfies. ‘About Me’ sections have likes separated by full stops and a definitive take on which Twilight boy you support.
On MSN I have a scrawly font in pale grey – an odd and frankly difficult-to-read choice but I thought it looked cool. Most days around 5pm, when afterschool sports had wrapped up, everyone would log on and talk about nothing until The Simpsons or Neighbours came on.
During one local afternoon adventure I post, “Ft. X,Y, and Z,” as a status on Facebook when friends and I go down to the since torn down Hungry Jacks.
The rest of the arvo is spent playing Animal Crossing and chatting on PictoChat.
Facebook lies open on a laptop in the corner of the room.
I still know every single person on my friend list, there’s only a handful of them after all.
Twitter is three years old, Instagram is a year away, Snapchat another year after that.
It’s 2009 and I don’t know any of these can be toxic yet.
Nine years later and I’m reminded of these times by Facebook quite literally bringing back digital memories from all those years ago.
I smile, but I don’t repost them.
In the mornings, Facebook wishes me a good day as I scroll through my newsfeed. Somewhere far away, it’s International-Something-Nice day – a day Facebook thinks I might be interested in.
I heart react to it.
It almost makes me forget about them selling my data off to strangers.