Oyster Words: Ali Michael On Life As An Internet Creep
"Today, I am a model. But I used to just be a nine-year-old with a penchant for the internet."
Even though American model Ali Michael has walked runways at Chanel and Christian Dior, for Oyster #101: Let's Get Digital we were more interested in hearing her thoughts on the internet rather than the fashion industry. She was, after all, born in 1990, making her well and truly part of the internet generation (plus she has over 6,000 followers on Twitter!). Read her article from the magazine below:
Today, I am a model. But I used to just be a nine-year-old with a penchant for the internet. My first AOL screen name was hrselover5 and my font was black and lime green Comic Sans. I listened to a MIDI file of the chorus from 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Deep Blue Something on loop in my bedroom. I took photos of my Ken doll dressed in Barbie's clothes and downloaded them from my digital camera onto the computer.
I first started using the internet when my parents bought this computer program called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and made me use it every day. I kind of resented it at the time, but came to appreciate its value when I completed the entire year's work for my seventh grade keyboarding class in two weeks. I also set the fastest GWAM (that's Gross Words A Minute) record in my middle school's history, so my photo was framed and mounted on the wall of the Computer Science room. It is still there today.
It's sort of hard to say exactly how long I have gone without the internet, because with an iPhone you're pretty much always connected, even if you don't realise it. I do try to limit internet usage when I'm out of the country on trips, but the truth is that what I just said is a lie and I end up racking up hefty overages self-diagnosing on WebMD and googling things that require me to clear my history immediately afterward.
While I am admittedly addicted to the Internet, I am definitely capable of living without it. I didn't have it in my apartment for something like three months when I first moved to New York and I just read a lot. It was kind of awesome. I think the internet is an amazing thing, but it's probably good to remove yourself from it every so often, just to be reminded that it is possible to exist without it. I think people, myself included, have become complacent and lazy because of the instant gratification that the internet provides. Doing the dirty work yourself is good every once in a while.
On the internet I love VICE. I'm also always on Purple, Terry's Diary, NY Mag's The Cut, Into The Gloss, The Chalkboard, Rookie, astro.com, Thought Catalog and Rotten.com (they have this database of sort of morbid subjects, histories, people, and the like, which I love). I follow a bunch of people and magazines on Twitter and Instagram too, which is awesome. Netflix is great for guilty pleasures and weird documentaries. I like to balance out all of the raunch with Oprah's Spirituality Webcasts. She interviews all of these interesting new-agey authors and activists — I have seen all of them a million times. I always watch them on my phone when I'm eating alone at a restaurant (which I do every day).
I have not done internet dating, but I am absolutely sure that people would think I am just as weird on the internet as I am in person, so it's probably not for me. The questions they ask when you sign up are so intense, too. I have a friend who set up an account with the username 'fartsniffer' because he thought he could change it later and then spent three hours answering all of the questions before realising that the username was permanent. I hope he finds someone.
I have, however, met people on the internet and become IRL friends with them. I met these two girls on some horse website when I was nine years old, and flew to New York to spend a week with them that summer. I have no idea why or how I was allowed to do that — and it was an incredibly bad idea — but it ended up being legitimate and we just had a big sleepover party at her parents' family home and rode horses every day. And then, of course, there are a lot of people I've had online interactions with/stalked on the internet and then ended up meeting them in person. I have a lot of internet crushes.
A friend and I share a secret Twitter account that we use to follow people who it would be politically incorrect/creepy to follow on our normal accounts. I know this is creepy, but I am also creepy. I follow a lot of models on it, because I'm kind of obsessed with models. I even used to have this Tumblr that I posted photos of models on, but it made me feel awkward when I met them in person because I never knew if they had seen it or not. Now I have perfected the art of meeting people and acting like I have no idea who they are, when in reality I was probably just looking them up two hours earlier.
A world without the internet would be disorganised. But then again, without the Internet we probably just wouldn't have as much to keep up with — it would be simpler and everything would be more tangible. But, on the other hand, in a world without the internet my photo wouldn't be framed in my middle school's Computer Science room, so it's really a catch-22.
Words: Ali Michael
Interview: Emily Royal