Right before the turn of the millennium a friend arranged for me to get a “netcam” so I could send in reports to the cable network where he worked, which was—in a sign of that age’s relative innocence—a TV station about the internet. I never filed a report, but I did, during times of stress, take photos of myself. My favorite one was called brown_lipstick.jpg, and in it I wore the first M·A·C lipstick I’d ever bought; it was a chocolaty shade called Photo, and I bought it in Seattle, with a friend I’d made on a BBS. (I was still trying, and failing, to crack the code of womanhood at 23.) Sometimes I would leave the camera on, allowing it to take still pictures at regular intervals—three, four, five seconds—and staring at them like a live-updated flipbook  about how a young woman would look persistently away from a downward-angled camera, lips pursed and head tilted ever so slightly. I only saved a few of those photos—the filenames were always ddmmyyyy.jpg, with brown_lipstick.jpg as the one exception—and today watching myself watching myself, coming out from behind my text-heavy personal site’s “lynx-enhanced” curtain, is like looking at old yearbook photos, except more uncomfortable because I still have no idea who was on the camera’s other side.

Maura Johnston writes and edits in Boston.