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People who are on the internet. Wait, lemme rephrase that. People who are connected to the internet. They're not "on the internet" the way that my cat can be "on the kitchen table" or my keys can be "on my desk" when i am locked out of my apartment. However I suppose someone could be "on the internet" in the same way that she could also be "on cocaine" or some other addictive chemical substance. Anyway, people who are connected to the 'net.

I have been "internet people" since 6th grade, when our family became subscribers to Prodigy, an OG internet service provider with mishmashed license plate-esque account names. Mine, for the sake of an example, was GFFV88C. Back then the experience involved mostly bulletin boards, particularly of the pets and video games variety. I found my niche in a small online community, there were many such 'clubs' on certain video game boards. Most of the member were boys, as fellow girl gamers were few and far between. We had officers. Positions. Rankings for people who posted. Secret UGs (for under ground), dead accounts where 'the in crowd' of members could log in and use unsent emails as a way to have private conversations among themselves. A wave of sadness rippled through the club when Prodigy swiched to having premium rates, having to pay for bulletin board time and extra e-mails. We had a yearbook with pictures and addresses, compiled by our club president, made with a color copier and distributed via snail mail. We said our goodbyes.

Later, in junior high, my dad switched service to AOL. Chatting, instant messaging, more bulletin boards, and games. One called Gemstone. The first MUD i ever played, before i knew what MUDs were. But again, with the premium rates, and that didn't last long. Then I read something somewhere about the possibility of MUDs being free. I searched around online. At this time our household was trying out a new ISP called WOW! that offered unlimited hours for a flat rate. I stumbled upon my first REAL MUD, AvatarMUD, on accident, by clicking a link on someone's homepage. Up popped my telnet window, asking "What is your name, adventurer?" or the like. I was definitely confused at first, but I quickly became addicted to the rush I felt seeing 'You gain a level!' scroll up my screen.

Soon after, I became addicted to the internet people I met online.

I met a world where people like you if you learn how to use friendly socials (a smile here, a hug there). A world where I could let go of my inhibitions and truly speak my mind. And at the age of 15, a world where I could pass off as an adult, and be treated as one. I had the opportunity to become close friends with players who were my parents' age and older, across the country and across the world. I was never very good at the game, but despite frustrations, I kept playing. the people made me want to stay. Of course, the I still live with the results of this today -- less time for studying, random sleeping habits, and meeting net people irl.

I had my first real-life meeting with someone from the MUD the summer before my freshman year in college. My friends were shocked when they found out that I was going to meet someone from online. They never suspected that I was the sort of person who would do such a thing! Finally we met. It was a little awkward transitioning from online to in person. He was pretty quiet. I found myself babbling a lot to fill silence. My friends told me not to meet anymore "internet people." But it went okay. The second time I met someone from online was in spring. A girl. We had dinner, shopped a bit, talked about the MUD. Fast forward to this year. I have met 4 people from online, in person. Out of 4, 3 are from the MUD. Out of 3, 2 live in my area. Out of those 2, one is a girl who goes to my school. She's my new late-night grocery shopping buddy. That leaves the non-MUD internet guy. His name is Danny.

This year I met Danny in person for the first time. I met him online in 6th grade. He was just another guy in the video game club we called .\\onarchy. I live in California. He lived in New Jersey. We got to know each other through various arguments, which usually involved me protesting some sexist remark he made. He got better about gender sensitivity issues as we both got older, and we exchanged snail mail in the post-Prodigy era. There were a couple phone calls, usually on birthdays. I hadn't really talked to him after high school, once maybe, but he told me that one of his close friends was going to go to the same college that I was attending. I quickly forgot about it. After all, there are 30,000 undergraduates here. But last year I met a girl. A few months later I found out she was originally from New Jersey. After a couple weeks I remembered Danny's comment and her name. I talked to her an confronted her about it! The two of them had grown up together in New Jersey and she had heard of me back then. I met Danny this year when he was visiting California and staying with her. Small world?

There is an inexplicable excitement I have when the line between real life and online life begins to blur a bit. I'm not sure what else I can say about it. Maybe I just find it really amusing that it's at all possible. My parents tell me not to associate with internet people. Their ideas about people online have been formed by prime time television news stories about teenagers getting abducted and murdered. There are risks. People need to take precautions. There are some shady characters out there who are untrustworthy and dangerous. But at the same time, if the entirety of my experience with automobiles had been seeing car wrecks and accidents on television, I would never get into a car. Thus, after contemplating risks, benefits, and personal experience, I have decided...

"Internet people" are people.
My habits are unlikely to change.

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