I was 14 and didn’t know how to resize a photograph, so the picture I chose for the background of my personal website was pixelated, and still had a proprietary watermark in one corner. The picture was of a bright swirl, like one of those red and white peppermint candies that receptionists keep in little dishes on their desks. Except the fingers of my swirl weren’t red; they were blue.
“It looks blurry,” the boy I had a crush on told me over AIM. “And it’s got a trademark on it. It’s really big.” This was a problem. Not because I was worried about violating a copyright for my blue swirl, but because I was worried about looking incompetent. Making blogs was a trend at my middle school, and at the time the Internet seemed vast, anonymous. People rarely used their real names online, and there was a sense that you could encounter people you would never know in real life, and were unlikely to be discovered by the ones you did. This offered, in my teenage mind, and opportunity to become what I wasn’t: mysterious, confident, cool.
My pixelated swirl undid all that. It became clear that my klutziness, my incompetence, and the rest of my true self would follow me online. They still do.