Breaking up with Social Media - Part Four - Becoming Ian

Over time I matured, and the internet matured with me.

Another huge change in my life happened that also forever changed me much like my love of the internet changed me in the years prior.

I mentioned how I had grown up in a small town that more or less repressed the person I felt I was inside. Well, in 2001 that all changed as my Dad decided it was time to move out of that small town and into a very liberal college town instead. This move happened as I transitioned from Middle School to High School. At first this felt completely traumatizing to me, as my personal anxieties have never made it easy for me to handle large changes in my life. However as I began to meld into this new school and this new life something kind of remarkable happened. I found that I no longer needed “Family” Ian while at school. People here accepted me for who I was. Being gay, or nerdy, or a weirdo were no longer things that I would be picked on for. Teachers would encourage these types of behavior and push me to be more of myself, I found new friends who were into all the anime and video games and computers I was into.

Online Ian met the real world. It was glorious and possibly the best time of my life. There is nothing more affirming than to be able to be yourself and be loved for it. This is what I got at East Lansing High School and is when the version of myself that was born and developed online really solidified into that main version of myself that I would become.

I still spent a lot of time online during this period, but almost all of the socializing I would do would be mostly with people I knew in real life. The popular method of online chat by this point was AOL instant messenger, which I used constantly when I was online at my computer. I had built my own websites before, but now I was building websites together with real life human friends that I knew in person. I began to become very self reflective during this time. Being accepted by strangers, again, but this time in real life made me start to question what had gone so wrong in my hometown, and question what was so wrong with my family. I had always loved to write and so when I found the site Livejournal I knew it was time to start getting all of my shit out.

My first blog post, from the day after my birthday 2002.

My first blog post, from the day after my birthday 2002.

I started a blog where I would talk about my feelings, my thoughts, my fears, my anxieties. I had discussed these kinds of things in chats with people before but never in a long form method like this where my thoughts could fully form and develop. This was again, a very trans-formative thing for me. I met even more new friends on blogging sites that also had an interest in figuring their complex emotional shit out, and we helped each other with encouragement and support to navigate what was going on in our minds and our lives. Having a place you can go where you can go as deep as you want to into your own messy mind and be still be accepted by other people is amazing. I cannot imagine the kind of person I would be today if I never stopped back then as a teenager to try to decide who I was as a person and discover why I thought the way I did about the world. In a way Family Ian was still alive when at home and at Church, Online Ian became just Ian and that version of me would continue to develop further with these new outlets for self-analysis.

At this point a new presence was starting to take hold on the internet. The advent of social media websites was upon us, and things would change forever.

Concluded in Part Five…

Alien Encounters of an Ian Kind

When I was younger you could say I had a fascination with Aliens.

For a period I consumed as many books, TV shows, movies, and documentaries about aliens as I could get my hands on. I explored parts of the early internet that had discussion boards about alien encounters.

Then I had some of my own, and it terrified me.

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Growing up Trek…

Growing up I had a very traditional upbringing for a white American. I grew up to divorced parents who each had partial custody of my brother and I. Our parents both worked at General Motors and both got remarried while we were still young. We went to a pretty middle of the road school, to a rather standard church and lived rather typical middle-class lives. There was drama, as there always is in split families, though I would say our family was a model of a modern family. As much as I hate to admit it, I am now an adult. I have a well defined personality and world view that is no doubt shaped by the events that

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have occurred throughout my life. The strange thing to me has always been how different I see things than most people I know. I always keep an open mind, questioning everything. I don't accept things at face value, even when those things come from my elders or people in power. I somehow have developed an inquisitive mind that is unlike that of most people around me. For the longest time I could not figure out why that was.

Recently I was re-watching a TV show I enjoyed as a child and I started to realize that this particular show may be responsible for it all. That show is Star Trek (The Next Generation, to be precise.) I watched the show when I was younger because my brother watched it, and everything he did was obviously the coolest thing in the world to me. So I watched the show a lot. I don't know if I always understood what was going on in each episode but it certainly piqued my curiosity. Looking back I see how this show influenced my mind, getting me to think about things critically. Creating and interest in scientific reasoning.

When I was a teenager I began to become very interested in physics, I remembered all of these fantastic things that I had seen on Star Trek. I remember a book my brother had "The Physics of Star Trek" that tried to explain the science on the show using real world theories and knowledge.  In High School I once asked my physics teacher about string theory and was thrown back a bit when he said he wasn't allowed to discuss it because it was still too new. This made science seem forbidden and even more mysterious to me and just made me want to learn more. So I did, over the years I took it upon myself to stay up to date on any new advances in the fields of physics, reading books when I could and just reading the internet the rest of the time.

Star Trek taught me to be open to things that were different from me. It helped me learn how to think critically. It opened my mind to possibilities that I never would have thought of. I think I can safely say I would not be the person I am today without Star Trek in my life. I always thought that the things I saw on TV didn't effect me that much, but I suppose in this case being brought up watching TV ended up being a good thing. Thank you Gene Roddenberry, you are a most awesome creator of tales.