Wisdom of the early gay web
Part of what drew me to neocities is how it reminds me of the early internet, when people would earnestly share their interests and opinions on poorly-designed personal webpages to connect with people of like mind, or curious people looking to explore other view points or be entertained. Before the social media outrage attention economy overtook the internet. I'm not naive, I know the old web was also full of opportunistic hackers and scammers and cyber bullies; and neocities likely has its share of bad-faith weirdos. But regardless of what other people's intentions might have been or may be, and despite my own original intention for creating this site — I originally wanted this website to be some kind of cynical cultural commentary about the ills of technology and downfall of America — working on this website and exploring neocities has helped me connect with what I always loved about the internet, and helped me reconnect to myself.
When I was a kid — way too young to be browsing the web as much as I did — I'd spend hours exploring random pages on Geocities and AOL Hometown. I loved seeing how many diverse interests and ideas were out there, even when they scared me a little bit. I was a total wuss and any mentions of things like aliens or conspiracy theories or even fictional sci fi narratives — common subjects for many Geocities pages — weirded me out. But I almost liked the scary pages the most. Because if people existed who created scary web pages like those, maybe I was allowed to be the weird kid I was. Browsing those shoddy personal websites helped me imagine the type of person I might become. It made me feel like the type of person I felt like I wanted to be was a possibility.
When I finally found my way to the gay sections of Geocities, I was elated. I didn't have to rely on weird sci fi nerds to give me permission to be a weird gay kid. There were actual gay adults out there writing about their lives and interests that I could look up to! I was simiarly elated when I discovered that one of the neocities founder Kyle Drake had an archival Geocities project that featured clones of hundreds (if not thousands?) of Geocities pages from back in the day.
As I was working on this site, I browsed the archives for design inspiration and to potentially steal old graphics and clip art. Unexpectedly, I ended up being deeply moved when I browsed the gay section again. I saw the people who created these sites from a new perspective and realized that I might be becoming who I wanted to be when I used to secretly browse the gay section of Geocities as a kid.
I also just found a lot of really thoughtful ideas and even some good writing. I plan to share some of them here, with commentary, and maybe share a bit more about my experience.
For now, enjoy this gorgeously tacky graphic I stole from one of these websites: