Alright, as I have already said too much about what I'm doing next week (many of you have jumped to a conclusion far, far more exciting than what's actually happening) I am going to switch gears and do something completely different for today's BEDA post.
Yesterday I went to that meeting for the PDX Zine Symposium (the one where Kayley and I are speaking on a panel) and we had a long chat with the other three guys about social media and our histories with it/using it/how it's impacted our lives.
It got me thinking that my usage of social media didn't just start with YouTube - it goes way, way back to when I first got a computer. I've been utilizing the tools of the Internet before I even realized how beneficial it could be to my life. So today, I will tell you my story.
We got our family computer when I was a child. I don't remember exactly when that was, but I'm assuming it was something like age 8 or 9. When my parents first hooked it up, I was pretty apathetic. I played Ski Free, I drew things in paint, I had my Barbie Fashion Show computer game, but beyond that, I preferred a good Babysitter's Club book over the computer any day.
It wasn't until we got AOL that I started to realize the computer was a communication tool. I found chat rooms geared toward kids, I made friends with people in a chat room for aspiring child writers, I started to add friends from school onto my "buddy list".
As more and more of my friends at school starting using computers, I remember some time in 6th grade, when I was 11 years old, we all found out about Neopets. Each one of us made an account, and we'd play - during lunch, after school, at home on our family computers. We made guilds, we played games, we competed over who could earn more neopoints - all the while beginning to develop a sort of online community, even though we saw each other every day at school.
The next year, when I was 12 and the cool-ness of Neopets was dying down, I remember we discovered the world of blogging. Though we didn't know it was called blogging at the time. The first site we used was teenopendiary.com, a very regulated, hard to customize site where many of us complained about our lives, our friends, our families; all in a public setting for everyone else to read and comment on and talk about behind each other's backs at school. Then the site went under, deleting all our posts without warning, causing us to switch to diaryland.com. This site operated much more like a personal website, with skins that made everyone's personal diary look as unique as they wanted. And though this site never deleted itself on us, it too faded in coolness and within a year we'd all switched to Xanga.com. By the time we hit Xanga, we had a little better idea of what should be posted publicly on the internet and what shouldn't, but this was still during Middle School, and 13-14 year old minds don't operate under the same rules of discretion as older ones do. I can remember countless fights happening during these years of my life with my school friends over what someone posted about someone else in their blog.
All the while, I was still fascinated by the sheer amount of opportunity on the Internet. When most kids were worried about being popular at school, I was trying to find ways to fit in online. Backing up a little bit, I remember my friend Lis had showed me my first of work fanfiction ("Royal Flush", it was about Sailor Moon) at age 12. From there I found Fanfiction.net, a site with amateur works about literally anything your heart desired. I rooted around until I found Harry Potter fanfiction. From there I developed a fascination with pieces about Draco Malfoy, which soon turned into a passion for Draco/Ginny. I read hundreds of fanfiction (which is also to blame for why I read nothing but Harry Potter for nearly 3 years of my life). Because of my love of the D/G ship, I started a Yahoo Group about them, joined up at various other fanfiction hubs (Fictionalley and Portkey.org) and sooner or later became a site moderator for Portkey. It was here that I started to build real friendships with people who were passionate about the same things as I was.
On Portkey I met my good friends Crystal and Daniela. We were all moderators on the D/G side of Portkey and together worked on many different writing projects (including a huge undertaking where we planned to rewrite the entire HP series from Draco's POV, which never actually happened). But when I realized the D/G community was too small for me, I branched out, finding a particularly active thread on the site called "Wonky". I discovered it because I saw someone posting there whose info claimed he went to the same high school as me. My curiosity got the better of me and I private messaged him, asking if we really were neighbors and what Wonky was all about. Turns out we were about 3 years apart in school, and that Wonky was a thread that had started between a few people that seemed to never die, and so it was given a name and got its own moderators, and became a sort of exclusive safe-haven for people on Portkey to "belong" to, to talk about things other than Harry Potter with a group of HP fans that would never judge them. It became a little eclectic family, right there in the Portkey.org forums.
My friends from Wonky also encouraged me to start a LiveJournal account, because even though I still actively used my Xanga (it was still cool with my school friends) LiveJournal catered much more to creating communities, easily following your friends' updates, and of course implemented the popular "LJ icon" to which we were all so fond. So I switched.
It was shortly after I started the Yahoo Group that my good friend Adrian excitedly sent me a link to the band "Harry and the Potters". I fell in instant love, and was even more thrilled when he got me their first CD for my birthday. That summer (of 2004) they toured the country and Brittany and I (among a whole slew of our other friends) were first in line to see them play in Seattle. It was around this time as well that we decided it would be funny to start our own little Harry Potter themed band, only we'd sing about evil things rather than about love and bravery like the boys. We pitched this idea to Paul and Joe and they encouraged us to keep writing music. So we did. And we put our songs on Myspace.
It feels like everything was such a blur after starting the Parselmouths. We recorded a few songs, we saw Harry the Potters play a few more times, we got to meet Draco and the Malfoys (Brian and Brad really inspired us to record an album), we found out about the Remus Lupins (and met Alex Carpenter), the Moaning Myrtles (I started emailing with Lauren Fairweather) the Whomping Willows (Matt Maggiacomo invited us to come play our first show in New York in early 2007). We also submitted a Christmas song to the first Wizard Rock collab album in late 2006. Shortly after our New York show (where we met even more Wizard Rockers and fans and people in the community) we were asked to play at Phoenix Rising, which led us to attending our first Harry Potter conference at age 19.
But even though wizard rock was taking off in a very exciting way, that didn't stop me from finding even more avenues to express myself online. In late 2005/early 2006, my friends Liz and Miranda (from high school) were just starting to get involved in stock photography. They showed me there was this whole community on Deviantart.com where various amateur photographers/models would post their unedited pictures for other artists to use and manipulate to practice their own art. I knew it was something I would love, so I grabbed my aspiring photographer friend Justin (not my room mate, the other one) and we spent the next two years going to different locations with trunkfuls of costumes. Before long I had a huge gallery of stock photos on the site, and hundreds, then thousands of people started using them. My likeness appeared in sketches, paintings, vector art, on t-shirts, in school art projects, you name it, my stock was probably used for it. Liz and I met so many people in the stock community - I started going to the stock model chat rooms, we held contests on the site, and all the while it never even occurred to me that I'd managed to find yet another close-knit internet community, just by following my passions.
Wizard rock was exploding - we put out our first album which I sold out of my bedroom through paypal. I used to pack up the albums and take them to the post office myself. My return address labels had a little snake on them. We were getting asked to play more shows, being interviewed for newspapers, local television spots, MTV - and yet, I still needed more to do.
One day I was talking to Lauren and she showed me a video made by Bre Bishop (ifancythetrio) in which she lip-synced to "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley and made it about the HP fandom -- and I knew instantly - I wanted to do that. Not lipsync videos, per se, but making videos on YouTube. So I did. I made a channel, I started filming myself in my bedroom - talking, singing, dancing, footage from various wizard rock trips - and then, in a missxrojas video, I found the vlogbrothers. I started watching Brotherhood 2.0 and became involved in that first year's Project4Awesome (Liz and I made a video together, coining the nerdfighter notes by hiding them in John's books in our local library). One of the brothers liked our video enough to feature it in an email during the P4A, and I honestly credit that as when I "made it" on YouTube. I knew I had the support of the vlogbrothers, and from there people just seemed to keep finding my channel.
Meanwhile, I knew a fanfiction author who had written a blog about this writing project called Nanowrimo, and after a year of wondering what it was and if I should have done it, I finally signed up in 2006. It became a huge topic for me to discuss on YouTube, and through it I met a lot of other writers on the video blogging site. This is how I started talking to hayleyghoover, one of my best online friends and internet collaborators.
When the vlogbrothers completed their first year of daily videos, being ever the inventive one, I took it upon myself to create a spin-off channel. I called up Lauren and together, we chose Kayley, Hayley and Liane to fill our our 5-day week and started fiveawesomegirls. We truly thought no one would really care all that much about our videos, aside from maybe our friends, so when we got around 10,000 subscribers just in the first few weeks, we were shocked. Fiveawesomegirls really brought the five of us to where we are today - through it we met so many of our other friends on YouTube, whether they were on another fiveaweome channel or making responses to our videos.
It was once I started gaining a following on YouTube that I started utilizing sites like facebook, twitter, and dailybooth as additional ways to interact with not only fans, but my other friends who lived far away. Everything started to snowball from there. I hosted BlogTV shows, I got a smartphone and started doing twitpics nearly every day to better chronicle my life, and grew accustomed to never leaving home without a camera. I "auditioned for" and got to participate in the Fiesta Movement, and met a ton of people through that as well. The final blog switch, also, came about in late 2008 when I realized most YouTubers were making their home on blogger.com. That explains why I am here, posting religiously on this site.
I met loads more YouTubers when I attended YouTube Live (my first big event that wasn't HP-related), and in the background, Wizard Rock was still a huge, dominating element in my life. I started trying to change my "image" from italktosnakes, the Harry Potter girl, to "ohheykristina" - a more generalized version of who I wanted to portray online. I wanted to start a "Kristina Horner" brand, as lame as that sounds.
This story almost brings us up to date, aside from the biggest force I think of any of my Internet endeavors, which I would say has been ALL CAPS. Luke and I had always worked well on music together - I've helped with more than a few Ministry of Magic songs, and he helped produce the most recent Parselmouths album. So when he suggested we write some songs together that weren't about Harry Potter, just for fun, I was more than happy to oblige. Our first few songs (the zombie songs, Mrs. Nerimon) were kind of testing the waters, and when we got such a positive response, we decided to write a whole album. We recorded and released "Songs in the Key of Email" without telling any of our friends we were doing it, and were literally knocked on our behinds over how much people seemed to like it.
After being signed to DFTBA, releasing our second full-length album, going on a nation-wide tour, and seeing our name climb the charts on iTunes, I can safely admit I never saw it coming.
I never saw any of it coming. I didn't create stock with the dream of seeing my face on shirts in legit shops in Spain, or on a tee of the day on Teefury.com; I never dreamed MTV would give a crap about Wizard Rock. I made videos because I thought Bre looked like she was having a ton of fun, not because I expected 57,000 people to want to know what I'm up to on any given day. I used to blog solely to say mean things online about my friends in middle school and complain about how unfair life is for a 13 year old girl, not to share the intimate details of my day to day life with strangers. And ALL CAPS was a project between a friend and I, writing songs about zombies because we thought it was funny, not because we ever expected our album to place with Owl City's in rank.
Sometimes I feel like I don't deserve any of this. Sometimes I wonder if I drank a whole gallon of Felix Felicis as a child and it still hasn't worn off, because it feels like every choice I made seemed to be the right one. I have been so damn lucky, with almost every endeavor I set out to do. But looking back over my life, over my internet history - I have been working hard for 10 years, never stopping once. If something wasn't cool anymore, I moved on. If there was an exciting new opportunity, I took it.
It's funny, too, because my parents used to really get on my case about how much time I spent on my computer. I got my own desktop when I was 14, and my mom used to go crazy over the amount of time I'd spend alone in my bedroom. I don't know what she thought I was doing (probably just wasting time, in her mind) but I always assured her I was "working on something really important". And now, after all this time, and showing them what I've accomplished, having them come to my shows and see me on MTV and ride around in my Fiesta; they finally believe me.
So that's all I did. This was how it happened. There was no magic spell or generous handout or cool kids club I got a membership to - I just became obsessed with social media and the opportunities of the Internet at a very young age and over the years let it consume me, in a good way. And I feel like I owe so much of it to every person I encountered every step of the way.
So thank you. For being here, for supporting me, for anything you may have done at any point in my journey that encouraged me to keep going. You're the reason I'm still here.
Last google search: "gnarls barkley" (I had no idea how to spell that)
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the wifi shirt
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