There are two things in my life that I am ashamed of. The first is a hideous, gut-eating, shin-bone-grating, teeth-popping sort of thing. The second is the sort of thing which leaves a lump of foolishness, sitting like a rock in your stomach.
When I was around eleven years old, I decided that I was going to write a musical. The charitable reader might allow that it was creative. It was not. The pivotal point of this operatic train-wreck was a concept so toe-curlingly ludicrous that I would rather procrastinate by paying my various bills than write the next sentence. Aside from the entire thing being sung to the tune of Don Mclean’s American Pie – by a girl who was asked by her junior-choir master to, “please mime lest the judges hear you!” – my musical addressed that age old question: What would happen if the USS Enterprise crashed into the Millennium Falcon.
I’m not even kidding. I had Kirk’s bastard alien offspring avenging his father’s death. I drew stage plans and made a lightsaber out of kitchen-roll tubes, sellotaped together.
I bent my friend’s ear off talking about it. Needless to say she saw it for the steaming pile of turd it was and went snickering behind my back to some of the other kids in my class… you can imagine where it went from there. It only took until that same afternoon for my rounding a corner to merit the thirty other children in my class, humming The Imperial March, or speaking Kirk’s Captain’s log, or any one of a thousand other very easy taunts.
But then we went to The Big School and all was forgotten.
Time passed and we grew up. And unique to our generation, the internet grew up with us. When I started my secondary education, the internet involved a blocked phone line and half hour loading times on simple html pages. Internet Explorer was still A Thing and multiple tab browsing hadn’t been invented. I had my first kiss to the news report that Napster had been shut down. By the time I started university, YouTube existed.
Which was a wonderful, terrible thing.
My friend and I both studied in Europe for a year. When we returned, we fell to talking about some of the things we’d done while we were away, and we fell upon the topic of German nightclubs. Had we been sober, my talented, musical friend would have pointed out that from what we saw on the continent, it appeared that our European fellows danced to the off-beat, rather than the beat (as we’d observed those in Norwich nightclubs doing). We were, however, far from sober.
To describe this cultural phenomenon, we kind of waved our arms about, “They dance like this!” I remember yelling, doing a little boogie. A housemate entered the room and asked what we were up to. We sat him down and told him that he should shut up, because we were going to teach him to dance like a German.
I cringe typing those words. But there’s no bills left for me to pay by way of avoidance, and besides, this needs saying: we made a video of our ‘tutorial’. We posted it to YouTube.
I took the video down the next morning but the damage had been done. Now that our video is on the internet, it can never truly be off the internet. If someone wanted to, they could search the archives and I’m sure that on some server or another, they’d find our hideous attempt at humour.
When I apply for jobs now, I fear that it’ll pop up on a search engine if someone types in my name. I worry that potential friends will somehow stumble upon it and mistake me for a close-minded fool. I worry that I will one day have to explain it to my children.
Thank goodness the internet wasn’t around when I wrote my musical. It’s one thing to explain away drunken shenanigans, but another entirely to have to justify the butchery of Don Maclean’s classic in the name of a sci-fi cross-over.
The thing is, the internet is around now. And more than ever, our children have access to the necessary technology for recording themselves doing all manner of stupid things in the name of entertainment. How will the boy who sung his own Minecraft-themed version of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ fare when he’s applying for university? How will he cope at University, when faced with a huge group of peers that has seen his Star Wars/Trek musical? Because my days of being haunted by Darth Vader’s theme tune ended when I moved to The Big School. I left my tormentors behind. Thing is… you can never outrun the internet.