Lockdown 2 has been unique in that I’ve been taking many walks down memory lane. It all started when I was looking for my old Student Room account in my Hotmail inbox and it took me to an e-mail from 2009. As if suddenly remembering I’ve had my Hotmail account since I was a child, this lead me to arrange my “sent” messages from oldest to newest and it was as if I’d opened Pandora’s box. There were so many old gems – I was rediscovering old MSN conversations, old stories that I had drafted and sent to my friends, photos that never made it to Facebook and more recently – old . I’ve written a bit about it before, but I really have been “online” – doing one sort of creative thing or another – for a super long time. Actually, for most of my life on earth. Some things I’ve tried have lasted, some haven’t, but they have all played a big hand in getting me to where I am now, writing this blog you are currently reading.
Going back to where it started
It all started when I was around 9 turning 10. Yes – literally that young. I was talking to one of my cousins in America, and she told me about a platform called Freewebs. It was one of the OG platforms for making your own website with little to no coding knowledge. These days we have Blogger, WordPress and Wix (to name a few). Back then, we had Freewebs, Piczo, Xanga and for a hot sec – Matmice (now a major throwback).
I thought it sounded cool to have my own website, so that evening, my cousin helped me make my own Freewebs website. My Freewebs website was all about… well, moi. Who I am, my interests, my best friends, what I was up to, and all that jazz. It was like an early version of the social media we know now – these days, people share absolutely about themselves online, literally down to where they live; sharing my favourite food and BFFs back then was just a taster of what was to come.
Back then, there were these things called “dollz” – a really strange time in the history of the internet, where a bunch of us pre-teens at the time would pull together different body parts and clothes onto these pixelated bases known as dollz (the “z” is essential). From dollz came “doll websites”, where “graphics” (i.e. an image (we called it a “sign”) that said for e.g. “welcome”, created by someone else with the aim to be shared on other websites), and cute website layouts were the name of the game. These websites really don’t exist anymore, but this YouTube video I just found lays out the whole dollz craze pretty well. Let’s say I’m around 10 years old now. As I was quite into this dollz stuff, I decided to start my own dollz website on Piczo and I named it “Ma Ghetto Graphics” (girl, I know…)
That sort off kicked of a whole wealth of websites I went on to create over the years:
- After “Ma Ghetto Graphics”, I made a Freewebs site called Lovable Sweetheart
- I somehow made some online friends, and myself and one of the friends I made went on to make a website called Dollie Divine
- That friend ditched me after a week (lol), so I came up Giggle Palace – this was my first time delving into HTML and I used a free template
- I then created a website called Milkshake Swirls – this was the first time I coded by myself, and I taught myself basic HTML just through dissecting the codes I was finding in these free templates
- After a little while longer, I made a site called Dollie Kizz – this was my first domain (dolliekizz.com). I basically swindled this for free by asking one of my online friends> to buy it for me
By now, I must have been around 12 years old, so as you can see – there was a whole lot of activity that took place in the space of 2-2.5 years.
“DollieKizz” (eventually renamed “DKizz” when dollz went out of style, and we all got older), was a really big part of my life for many years. I had that domain for at least 2 years and it was actually quite popular. The colours on the website were enough to give you a headache, music would play when you entered the website and there was no way to stop it, every page had spelling mistakes and my blog posts lacked any depth. BUT – I didn’t enjoy anything more than updating my website. I’d sometimes spend my whole weekend on my computer 24/7 coding and creating these “graphics” and tutorials. There wasn’t even the distraction of having a phone back then as, whilst we of course had phones, they were crappy flip phones in which you needed credit to text, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter were all exclusively online back then.
Whilst everyone is an “influencer” these days – having a website wasn’t cool at the time, so I went by Catherine – nickname “Sweets” for a while, didn’t post any photos of myself, and only ever revealed the website to one person at school (and that was just because her mum was a webdesinger). Having the rest of my class find out about my website was such a to me that I’d sometimes dream about it. I felt like Hannah Montana in those streets.
The beginnings of Skylish
Skylish actually came directly after DKizz – which shows you how this domain actually is (and how young I was when I came up with the name…) It was my dad that bought the domain for me after the previous domain I had swindled for free one day stopped working. Skylish in its early form was totally different to what you see here (see some screenshots below). I was still producing “graphics”, illustrations/animations and tutorials (on how to make graphics, and code), and my blog posts were still pretty meaningless and really just about whatever was going on in school. The website has grown with me over time though – it morphed into a beauty blog when I had my period of obsession over make-up, then it became a style blog for many years when that was all the rave, and now I’d say it is a lifestyle blog. These days I try to make my posts more thoughtful, thought-provoking, and touch on topics that are relevant to me (and my readers) at the stage I’m at in life now. I’m writing about avenues for investing money, how to find a place to live and where I’ve travelled to these days; back then I was writing about how the new girl at school kept following me around, and how I was hoping to do in my exams.
Old school blogging vs. present day social media
When I was sharing all of these old websites with Levi, what we found interesting how many themes were not to dissimilar to what we see on social media now…
Cancel culture: On one of my old websites, I found a page called the “Wall of Shame” – the Way Back Machine didn’t let me view the page but I remember it being a page people would use to shame other website owners that had “copied” their website or maybe left a mean comment. It sounds very reminiscent of the culture of cancelling people online that is so prominent today
Oversharing: Social media these days is all about sharing your life – where you are, what you’re eating, what you’re wearing, your successes and your failures. It seems that back then – we were already doing this at a smaller level. On my “about me” page I shared my height, “body type”, facts about myself, my likes, dislikes, “besties”, favourite films, favourite foods, and the list goes on…
Haters have always been a thing: Online “haters” have always been pretty prominent. I found a comment where someone had told me that my “graphics” sucked (pssssh), I also remember that on one of my first ever websites one of my primary school friend’s older sister had made a fake account that she would sent me death threats on (I can’t remember how I found out it was her – I think somebody told me – but I remember 100% who it was and I probably still have them on Facebook)
Whilst there were so many seeds sewn, social media and the internet as we know it today has morphed into a whole different animal. An absolute beast, to be honest…
Flexing: These days a lot of social media is about flexing and validation. Making sure that the photo of the wheel of your car also conveniently includes the face of your Rolex watch. In the more extreme cases – photographing the bill of your Ciroc bottles in a club, and filming yourself pouring drinks over your expensive watch in case anybody doubted that it’s real. If you have an Instagram – you’ve probably flexed before. I’ll hold my hand up and say that I have. However I think there are limits here, the whole thing reeks of seeking validation and I don’t like the smell of it.
I wonder sometimes if this is a consequence of social media being a lot about how you look these days vs. how cute you could make your dollz look back in the day. Or if its just a function of the age we’re at – we’re all adults now and money runs the world, whereas back in the day, we all lived with our parents and the goal was to get good grades, not to photograph our restaurant bills…
Money making: Of course – the biggest difference is that being online and creating has now become a job. Back in the day – this wasn’t something you’d get paid for, and the “graphics” and tutorials you offered were always free. At some point when I was around 15 years old, I started to sell webdesigns, but all of them were sold literally for <£10. These days, a fully coded website is much in excess of £100 and if you have a following on social media, you can get paid multiple times more than that for one single sponsored Instagram post. I don’t think I got paid for blogging until at least 2012/2013. Influencing is such a commodity these days, and has taken the place of traditional media and traditional celebrities
Reflecting on now
Sometimes I wonder if I really capitalised off of some of the skills I learned back then. After all, I did have enough coding knowledge to build a basic website (my knowledge here is definitely a good 7-8 years old now – I paid someone to make this current blog design!), I was also pretty handy at Paint Shop Pro and could produce quite decent quality illustrations (see some screenshots of the websites I was producing below). But, over time, a lot of these things didn’t tickle as much of an interest in me anymore. I even before university considered shutting down my entire website – it was only after I received an e-mail from The Body Shop saying they wanted to sponsor me (my beauty blog era) that I realised I’d be wasting something I’d spent so many years building.
Back then and still today there are two very distinct sides of me. There’s my by-the-book side – when I was growing up I was working to get As and A*s to allow me to get into a top uni, and I did that. Now most of my days are spent looking at charts, pitching to clients and yapping away about the market as I work in an analytical, investment banking role. At the same time – I’ve always been creative. Back then, I was creating websites and “graphics”, writing stories, comics, magazines and editing videos of my family holidays. Now, I’m still writing – for my blog, I’m working on side hustles and I’m editing videos – but this time for my fitness page.
What I do know for sure is that expressing myself online is something I’ve been doing now for most of my life, and for that reason the “online world” is such, and has always been such, a part of my life. This small space on the web I’ve built is probably the biggest release I have from the daily pressures of the real world. It’s so interesting to have grown up online and see how things are now – they are of course worlds apart from the days of Freewebs and dollz sites. I do wonder what another 10 years will bring. But one thing’s for sure – I’ll probably still be around. Maybe not as I am right now, but just as things have evolved over the past 15 years, I’m sure my presence online will evolve as I continue to grow too.
Are you ready for the screenshots?
…You’ll be amazed at what you can find on Way Back Machine!