Ben Cramer

What is a Digital Native?

In 6th grade, I was spending recess indoors using the classroom computer to take care of my Neopet. Back then, your Neopet got its own personal webpage, that you could then customize. Its when I first learned HTML, and used it to impress my councilors at a technology based summer camp. I could write my own webpage by hand in Notepad, and save it to a 3.5 floppy disk to take home.

I was a fan of Pokemon growing up, and quickly discovered the world of Pokemon fan sites. Some of them (Serebii, The Cave of Dragonflies) are still around today. These web admins were older than me, certainly had better design taste, and actual ideas for content. I looked up to them, and spent my time ripping off their sites to make my own, learning a lot about early web design. Freewebs, Freehostia, etc. were my go-to. I certainly didn’t have the cash for bona fide paid webhosting. I installed Wordpress, and attempted to make my own theme. SpoonGraphics was a huge help, but a kid in Junior High doesn’t really have much to say in way of a blog. Maybe I was more into the setup and config side. Maybe I was closeted, and scared of authenticity online, where my peers and family could discover.

One year for Christmas my grandparents got me a copy of Adobe Elements (11, maybe?) and I knew I was hooked. Graphic Design Was My Passion. I had a DeviantArt page full of meaningless graphics in odd aspect ratios. It didn’t matter. I was being creative and learning my tools.

I think I streamlined my digital footprint around 2011. That’s when I first discovered Tumblr, and the joy of setup and config married the ease of reblogging other peoples’ content. I wouldn’t have to worry too much about coming up with my own things to say. I could live vicariously through other queer teens, all of us blogging and Discoursing and Call Outing and Cancelling in one glorious hellsite. Tumblr got me through high school and then college. And then it sorta died.

The 2012 Youtuber/Vlogger boom was a gift, I attempted a short lived channel. I interviewed a few friends for some of their creative projects, gave a few rants, and generally attempted to participate in the zeitgeist. Embarrassed by my quality, and ready to start fresh in college, I nuked that project the summer after high school.

Now, as an adult creative entering the workforce, it became en vogue to have a personal website again. Squarespace made it easy to carbon copy an existing design, and throw your own content in. I spent a good amount of time helping a director friend format stills of his college shows for portfolio work. My own site stayed empty. Again, the problem of content. What do I have to say? Of course, for a graphic designer, this turns out to be a trick question - a portfolio website doesn’t need to say much of anything, as long as it shows examples of your work.

In 2022, a Tumblr user directed me to check out Neocities and introduced me to the growing Personal Web movement. I began working on a personalized site, which is what you’re seeing today, a year later.

A few months ago, I discovered Obsidian, a neat little tool that facilitates note taking. It’s fun to use. I’m also starting to use it like a blogging platform, writing my thoughts out in notes, and then publishing them.

Now, I’m beginning to formulate an answer. Its amazing what kinds of mental blocks fall away when you come out of the closet, go into therapy, and start living authentically.

Done is better than perfect.