In 1997 I became the editor of the school paper, giving me an alibi to ditch class and hang out in chat rooms. We’d post our addresses so we could swap emo mix tapes and buy bootlegs off each other.

In 1998 I had a Britpop zine and was getting dollar bills for it in the mail from weird places like Trenton and Tallahassee. My dad, a whistleblower, was trying to protect us from hired goons tasked with following our family to frighten him into silence, so I made sure to check the mail before he did so he wouldn’t find out I’d defied him in posting our home address online. The years of being followed were incredibly disturbing, but the idea that someone could stalk you online was laughable, paranoid.

Every month when we’d go pick up the papers from the printer, I revisited my own paranoia. I hated the idea that someone could, god forbid, save my yellowing newsprinted words and one day use them against me; if newspapers ever went online, articles could just go away after like a month, I figured.

And just like that—piece by piece, with naïve hopes, in the service of something else, with tools we do not understand±we build toward that which we do not know.

Melissa Mesku is a writer and UI developer in New York. Her first website was a chartreuse fan page for the 1996 Suede album Coming Up.