I've been online since a very young age; albiet, on my mom's phone, and monitored. Being born in the early 2000s, social media was around for all of my youth, although I do have a very, very scattered and vague recollection of bits and pieces of the remnants of Web 1.0. But, for the most part, all I knew for a long while was YouTube, which I mostly used to watch Pokemon AMVs. So I don't remember the old web as a lot of passionate Neocities netizens do (although I do adore watching old videos exploring it, and I'm very familiar with the Wayback Machine). What I do remember, though, was a community of young kids making our action figures go on adventures and uploading it for the world to see (if anyone remembers Adventures of the Pokemon by someone with a username similar to riolu2lucario, we are brothers in arms). That side of the internet didn't require polish, didn't require a curated type of persona. And, yeah, that might have to do with the fact that we were kids, but, based off of my discussions with people (including those older than I am), this is the general sentiment for the internet around that time. My first form of what could be called "social media" was KidPub (again, if anyone remembers this, we are brothers in arms). I went back onto it again for the writing of this article, and holy shit, the wave of nostalgia was unmatched. From what I can best tell from searching my old username, I was active until I was around 11 or 12. My account was deleted some years later, after I tried to get back into it, put that I was bisexual on it, and my mom deleted my account without telling me for that reason. (Which I am still so fucking bitter about, because all of that old writing is now lost to the void because of her own anger at my attempting to share my status as a queer person, but that's another topic.) KidPub was what my mom let me onto when I asked if I could have a fanfiction.net account; it's a writing website for kids to show their work off on, which even boasted a publishing service for said kids' original works. It was there that I found my first online community. I didn't know this at the time (and I wouldn't know this for many years), but I was autistic. I couldn't make friends in real life, except for two (one of whom was diagnosed autistic at the time, and the other of whom I'm still in touch with, and is in the process of getting diagnosed as-of now; wild how we sniffed each other out like bloodhounds), and, even as young as then, I was bullied. Both issues with making friends and bullying throughout life are very common autistic experiences, of course, and it's also a common experience among autistic people to thrive in online communities. And I did! Without all of the confusing facial expressions and social rules of the "real world", I was able to make lots of friends. Both there, and on the actual, proper social media platforms that I joined later on in life. (With tumblr being one of the first of those, which probably explains a lot about my anarcho-communist ass. Alas, like my KidPub account, my first tumblr blog was also deleted by my mother.) From my teenage years forward, the Internet became a place for socialization that I could understand. I can meet others and make friends online, unlike real life, where I continued to struggle to make friends and, no matter how many times I moved schools, I continued to be relentlessly bullied. The bullying only got worse over time, and that's not just because I was an autist, either. It was because I was the only openly queer person around for miles and miles, in a small, VERY religious town in Southern USA. I don't want to bum everyone out by describing how bad the queerphobia for me is here, but what I will say is that I still get threatening messages to this day. The internet, especially queer communities on the internet, was my safe haven; a point so important to my life that it's even the conclusion of my recent zine on the subject of my queer religious trauma. I was an isolated and traumatized queer whose salvation was the world wide web. For a queer like me, the internet is a place where I can be the self I am under my skin, where I found words for my experiences, and where I found my community that helped me find ways to feel safe. For an autist like me, the internet is an accessibility tool, a place to find connections, and a place to live the life I would want to if everyone around me didn't think I was a freak. And the internet is a form of life; it's not separate from 'real life', because, dammit, behind all of these 0s and 1s, we are fucking people, typing the words that we want to say, to anyone who will hear us. Friendships, experiences, art; these things aren't cheapened by being online. I'm "chronically online", as the kids say, but I work to make sure that it doesn't effect how I view people, online or off. Because, the cold, hard truth is that not everyone has the privilege to be able to log off and be in a place where they are accepted. And I've found love and community right here, right now, through the means of the internet.