Sunday, 10 July 2016
Book review - 'Ctrl Alt Delete: How I grew up online' by Emma Gannon
There are many things I'd forgotten about before reading Emma's book. Like how my best friends and I would snigger mischievously as we huddled around my first ever grey, clunky laptop, circa 2003, stealing an unsuspecting neighbour's Internet to google things like, 'how to give good blow jobs', practicing the listed techniques on four month old cans of 'Charlie' body spray. Or about Elliot, the cute, sun-kissed stranger with the disheveled blonde hair who, for two short weeks, became my MSN boyfriend, putting 'Kathy' between blazing hearts in his screen name. Of course, I wouldn't actually go near an actual, real-life boy, for many painful, hormonal-house-party years, but I was curious, just like Emma. The Internet allowed me to be.
'Ctrl Alt Delete' is described as a painfully funny and timely memoir, and I cannot disagree with that. I saw so much of myself in Emma's revelations that I devoured half of the book on the train home from the launch, stifling laughter at her tales of meticulous photo-editing, awkward cyber-sex, and social media stalking: smiling helplessly at that girl I used to be. The girl who would add sepia tones to every selfie because she thought it made her look seductive, more mysterious, somehow. The girl who fell about in horrified laughter when 16 year old Ian from Nottingham sent her a Bebo message to tell her how much he'd like to 'stick' his 'white log' inside her and 'waggle' it about. The girl who would agonise over who to include in her Myspace 'top friends', because 'omg, I luuuuuuv Stace, but if I don't include Sophie I might not get invited to that cool party next weekend!'
Nostalgic, yes. Hilarious, yes. But this book is so much more than that.
Beyond the candid confessions of what it was to grow up during the messy birth of the Internet in the nineties/early noughties, Emma talks with fierce passion about the building of her #GIRLBOSS digital career, the launch of her incredibly successful blog: 'Girl Lost in the City', and her unwavering love of creating: of having an online platform on which to think and write and connect.
The Internet is a heavily saturated landscape, but Emma's voice: one so refreshingly honest, clued up and courageous, one that might say one thing one day and something totally different the next, because 'guess what... I'm totally allowed to fuck up or learn something new and change my mind' is a voice that has never been silenced for me. To read about feminism, friendship, dating, self-discovery, and even the concept of legacies, all in this fascinating context of virtuality, in a book that felt, much to my relief, like an extension of her blog, just so her, was absolutely compelling. Inspiring. A 'be yourself' permission slip, perhaps,because if this admirable girl is evidence of one thing, it's that wonderful stuff can happen when you choose to do just that.
We all have a story, a unique narrative, to bring to the table, and Emma's book has fully championed what I've come to believe over recent months: that I'm doing exactly the right thing in sharing mine. And that you are, too. That you don't always need to know why you're doing something or what you're trying to achieve, as long as you're doing that something because you love doing it. Because it brings you home to yourself.
The Internet gives us this vast, glistening opportunity to share our humanness, and by doing that: by celebrating the good and the bad and the messy imperfectness, and writing with pain-staking vulnerability about the things that bring us to our knees, we become less alone. We become braver, and we make each other braver. Ctrl, Alt, Delete will make you braver, too.
It was absolutely worth logging out of Twitter for.