The Cohort

There my entire internet history was in front of me and in front of all of my friends, who could sift through it all— through every bit of it, nearly instantaneously.

We first read chats from the time of AOL CD-ROMs. Conversations I had right before I was a teenager, which ended in sending a 320 x 640 pixel picture of my stringy dick and another of just my tongue to a stranger halfway across the country. A stranger, who, I could now understand, was almost certainly not a hot 17 year old girl that modeled in local newspapers and was curious as to what a cock looked like, but instead, some random pedo.

On to phone texts between me and my ex-girlfriends. They floated back and forth like folded classroom notes, available for any of my exes’ friends to read, my calculations and insecurities bare. These chats took very typical— even theatrical arcs. I had been pathetic. Repeatedly. In the same self-loathing and self-important kinds of ways. And without fail, after each split, in the texts to my friends, I had convinced myself that I’d matured and had come a long way. All part of the growth process. I would be an excellent catch, very soon.

At least the delusion kept me from seriously thinking I might kill myself, but unfortunately not from dramatizing the idea in fiction in my LiveJournal. (My final evening would include The Smiths, Prague, and Djarum brand clove cigarettes. Though only in sporadic contact at this point in my life, the pedo seemed especially concerned and I thought her sweet.)

I’d forgotten about the Habbo account. Christ. I was almost twenty years old. Blood rushed to my face, my ears burned.

We read clueless e-mails to old teachers and professors. There was a speech for Public Speaking class in high school written about how Jesus was undoubtedly alright with me being a punk (for the fall semester). In Poli Sci as a freshman in college, I both cleverly defended Castro’s action in the October Crisis and brilliantly captured my deficit of subject matter knowledge in an essay that fell just short of two thousand words.

I wanted to rip the upsync cords out of my friends’ necks. (Though rationally I knew I was slower than electricity and the damage had been done. And I didn’t actually understand how they were hooked up so intimately to the server or how I might hack into it. Also, of course they could immediately read those thoughts, as well.)

Literally enough hours of playing Magic: The Gathering Online to delay losing my virginity by at least four months. And I never really got good.

This is the price one pays to link one’s brain up to The Cohort, a growing, voluntary Wikipedia for the Next Age. For the personal digital information of what is now up to twenty-three thousand people and growing, you only need provide the digital information of one. But it is a significant one.

At last, the upload was finished, and everyone knew me. Really knew me. Knew me in ways I had forgotten or buried through expert repression.

I felt the tears well up in the bottom lids of my eyes. The shame and humility was tremendous.

Before I could weep outright though, the knowledge of the other twenty-three thousand hit, like a sober angel spanking a boy caught stealing candy (or sending nudes across the internet), and we all had a good laugh and moved on to more important things.