October 12, 2015 by J.C. Lillis
Hey, 1995 self. I know it’s been a while. And I know you’re probably pretty busy deciding which pair of opaque tights to wear with your cutoffs, and etching Tori Amos lyrics into your headboard, and making an annotated list of every time Mulder and Scully almost touched in Seasons 1-2.
But we have to talk about the Internet.
Look, doll, I know you’re scared. I know you learned to type on an eighteen-pound IBM Selectric, and your idea of high-tech is a word processor that prints with the quiet grace of a two-ton mechanical woodpecker. But trust me: there’s this thing called “online fandom” that’s gonna change your life. You just have to get past your instinctive terror of anything with a motherboard, and truly believe that…
Luckily, Future You found this enormously helpful reference book in the Moldering Manuals section of a New Jersey thrift store. It was written in 1995 and features lots of ugly fonts and dorky verbiage so it really speaks your language. How about this: you ask all your burning questions, and Mr. Marc Gascoigne, author of You Can Surf the Net!, will give you concise and reassuring answers.
Ready? Fire away!
Q: Okay, so first of all: how did you find me, do I end up happy, and am I a writer?
A: Time travel via a secret portal in the back of your tearstained journal; yes, mostly; and yes, definitely.
Q: WOOHOO CAN YOU TAKE ME TO MY FUTURE NOW?
A: No, sorry. None of it will happen without the Internet.
Q: Goddamn it.
A: Start asking, kid.
Q: So…come on. Are a lot of people really using this Internet thing?
A: Take it away, Marc Gascoigne:
Q: Okay, well, as long as rock stars and slackers are using it, I guess I can try. Does Tori Amos use it?
A: We just don’t know.
Q: What do I need to get started? I don’t have to go to one of those freaky cybercafes, do I?
Q: Thank god. I have an Atari from 1984. I thought I’d have to buy one of those weird Packard Bells or something.
A: You’ll also need a CD of Internet software, which you will eventually shatter with a hammer for use in an art project circa 2003.
Q: Good to know. So how does one actually “surf” the “World Wide Web”?
Q: So you…click on words and it takes you to other things?
Q: …Is there a limit to how many words you can click, so you won’t sit there literally all day clicking an endless chain of links on, say, Gillian Anderson and how she got so heart-stoppingly foxy?
A: We wish.
Q: What do I do if I want to “search” for something on the World Wide Web, like hypothetically “david duchovny nudes”? Is that possible?
A: It’s all about Lycos, sugarplum.
Q: Awesome. Now, is there a World Wide Web page devoted to inept graphic renderings of marshmallow peeps, preferably ones that make the peeps look like turds? Because I’d be all over that.
Q: What if I’m into “underground music”?
A: Here ya go.
Q: Where can I find the various web pages of today’s biggest stars?
A: Here are the web addresses of Jim Carrey, Anna Chlumsky, and other stars you are sure to care deeply about since you are from 1995.
Q: Why is the average web address 42 characters long?
A: To weed out uncommitted fans.
Q: Let’s get serious now: What’s the deal with this “E-mail” people keep talking about? Is that an actual thing?
A: Incredibly, yes.
Q: Can I send an “e-mail” to Tori Amos?
Q: So I can e-mail Chris Carter and tell him exactly what I thought of the episode where Tony Shalhoub’s shadow kills people?
A: Yes. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.
Q: What happens if I do something really annoying by accident? People will be basically nice, right?
Q: That sounds scary.
A: Wait’ll you meet Twitter.
A: Hush, baby. Never you mind.
Q: I don’t want to be “flamed.” Can you give me some netiquette pointers?
*Note: ALL CAPS won’t be widely acceptable until about 2008, around the time the first joint basketweaving/Pearl Jam livejournal makes its debut.
Q: What in Hootie’s name is a smiley?
Q: Does the average person in 1995 have much everyday use for cow, Robocop, and Frenchman in beret smileys?
A: You’d be surprised.
Q: So my biggest fear is…what happens if I’m reading a “Web site” and it suddenly gets, you know, boring? Is there anything I can do to escape my fate?
Q: Thanks, Future Me. Can I ask one more really, really important question?
A: Mulder and Scully don’t get married.
Q: DAMMIT I THOUGHT IN THE FINALE–
A: But they do end up having a baby that might be an alien. Don’t worry, though. By the time that happens you’ll be way more interested in Krycek/Marita Covarrubias fanfic, plus the occasional Mulder/Krycek slash.
Q: What’s slash?
A: Oh, honey. We need to talk. Lattes at the cybercafe: my treat.