We're All Going to the World's Fair

We're All Going to the World's Fair ★★★★★

When I was eight I played World of Warcraft on my grandma's computer in her house. We would go there, basically, because my mother would be in a fight with her abusive husband and she (or I alone) needed to hide out there for a few days until things calmed down a bit. World of Warcraft usually ran like shit on this computer because it was very old. I don't remember how old exactly but it ran Windows 95 despite it being around 2007. Frustrated, usually, I would hang out on an anime forum. I had a lot of friends, or people I perceived as friends, on this website. It had a chatbox and a bunch of topics, the usual situation. I mostly hung out on the music ones and the literature ones. After my mom divorced my step-father we moved into a few different houses, but ultimately wound up at this nice looking small neighborhood rental home that had decent internet. My other grandmother had gotten me a decent desktop computer for Christmas that year. I played World of Warcraft for about eight hours a day. After chatting with various people I would meet on World of Warcraft for a lengthy period of time I would settle back into the anime forum where I would post poems that I wrote, and read fanfiction that other people wrote. Specifically I remember this one vampire fanfic called "Red" that I followed religiously about an ancient vampire in London who terrorized the community but was basically sympathetic and horribly sad about his life as a monster. I regularly shared my writing, poems, with the author of this fic who also lived in London -- something that read to me as exotic and fulfilling. I was also a review for the website. I had a hot pink name and a small badge under my screen name (tempo) that indicated this. My reviews were usually pretty bad, but honestly I was twelve years old and I think I deserved a bit of slack. One person from the forum, named ryuji, would routinely make fun of me for my reviews and for my poems which he claimed were simple and overwrought emotionally. He was likely correct. They were all in rhyming couplets, and alluded, performatively, to self-harm and a lack of romantic love.

I leaned more into World of Warcraft as Web 2.0 eclipsed the potential of a functioning forum community. The space became filled with ads, spammers, and was eventually sold to another person who did not perform the proper maintenance. It is a distinctly unrelatable phenomenon to describe the end of a forum community, and when it is relatable it is regrettable because it basically indicates that the person that you are talking to has witnessed it too. An affair we should more or less be embarrassed of. On World of Warcraft I met many people. My first experience of pubescent romantic love was with someone I met in a guild. Her name was Nederia, but we eventually learned each other's actual names and realized that we were roughly the same age. We messaged constantly. We skyped in the evenings. One of my first sexual encounters was briefly showing each other our pubescent genitalia on Skype, breathing incommunicably, and feeling more or less totally embarrassed with what we were doing. I had other friends, platonic friends, who I chatted with daily who were in my guild or had otherwise known about me from my frequent posts in the Orgrimmar Trade Chat. It was, to me, a social network that disclosed many lessons on how to talk and react to other people.

One distinctive episode when I was 13 or 14 was when one of my guildmates, Lockelock, who was generally a creep and a pedophile, tried to convinced me that I was gay. He sent me a lot of very long messages describing how I'd eventually come to realize it. How I'd eventually be getting reach arounds (he said this) and that the longer I denied it the harder it would be for me to cope with this fact in the future. At this moment I felt like this stranger on the internet was peering into the depths of my soul and somehow knew something I had been deeply afraid of knowing. I cried, denied, and eventually begged him to stop bothering me. The incident lead up to me leaving the guild, which was mostly social and had no serious benefits like Raiding or a successful PvP presence, and blocking him on my friends list.

Various other incidents like this occurred routinely with men who were in their 40s and played World of Warcraft with their wives. Some positive and some overwhelmingly negative, I eventually decided that I would stop trying so hard to meet random people and just seriously apply myself to the mechanics of playing the game. I was a Druid Healer for a seriously performing raiding guild. I met my friend Evan, whom I am still friends with. We talked over Ventrillo (the program preceding Teamspeak and, ultimately, Discord) literally constantly. We talked in a general channel of about five or six people whom I knew either from high school or from various guilds I had been in or people from other games we slowly brought into the fold. In the evening sometimes Evan and I would sequester ourselves into a separate channel where we would have "Insightful Discussions" or "Insightfuls" where we would talk about life and the books we were reading. We considered each other very highly intellectual. It is very funny to me, to this day, that we did this and what we talked about. Simultaneously I looked at what was effectively snuff films and pornography on 4chan, falling in love with the form of speaking relevant to being deeply irony poisoned and out of touch with finding hope in the world in any meaningful way. I met Evan in person at Pitchfork Music Festival in 2015. 

Whatever, I went to high school. I had a car, and I ended up having a lot of friends and basically having a good time without much interaction with the internet. In fact, I'd moved out to the country (or even more of the country) and at this point I had satellite internet. When my mother told me that I would have to transition to only being able to productively use the internet for about an hour a day, I cried and regretted that we were moving even though the house was much nicer and more spacious. I didn't know what I would do without the constant flux of conversation. But, of course, we adapt. I had a girlfriend at the time who had moved to Seattle after her first year at my high school. We were deeply in love with one another and we kept up the relationship for three years, off and on of course. We would message every day when we were together. I would go to Seattle in the summers and she would come to the Carolinas in the Winters. Around this time I had a film blog called “proud and evolved woman” on which I posted long and horribly cliche reviews of films that I deemed “feminist.” 

When I got accepted to college I joined the admitted student's facebook group. I posted on it practically constantly because I was afraid I would be moving twelve hours away without any friends. I loved having friends, and I needed to know that I wouldn't be leaving behind people I loved dearly for a lonely existence. Everyone else was probably afraid of this too, I just used it as an explanation to become what is essentially a forum poster on my Admitted Students Facebook page. On this page I met people who would be my friends for the duration of my college experience. One of whom I message daily, facetime frequently, but haven’t seen since the COVID19 pandemic started. When I introduced myself at parties, however, people would say "Oh you're Lane from the Facebook group!!" It took about a year for people to stop saying that.

To be sure, I started using twitter almost immediately. I have gotten in arguments with people in my life about how I use twitter routinely for the past six years. I have unwittingly disclosed information to members of my family about my personality and identity that I did not want them to see or read. Last weekend when I introduced myself to someone I had never met before she looked at me and said "oh you're lane's review."

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